Afghan-Australians, faith leaders and veterans in Canberra call on government to urgently lift admission to Afghanistan
A delegation of faith leaders, members of the Afghanistan-Australian Advocacy Network, and veterans, are in Canberra to demand the government provide more security for Afghan refugees, warning 15,000 over four years is not a proportionate response to the humanitarian crisis, nor in line with the expectations of the Australian community.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced in January that over the next four years, 10,000 humanitarian visas and 5,000 family visas will be reserved for those fleeing or fleeing Afghanistan. However, this intake does not add to the already low annual intake of 13,750 people in Australia. In addition, many of the approximately 5,500 Afghans who already arrived in Australia last year will now have to apply for one of those 10,000 humanitarian visas.
“Australians are united in their shared responsibility to the people of Afghanistan. They want a generous contribution and welcome those in need safely. However, from what we can glean from the government’s recent announcement, we only have 4,500 humanitarian places left for those fleeing Afghanistan, while there are 150,000 Afghans who have requests for
Australia for protection,” said Mariam Veiszadeh, CEO of Media Diversity Australia, AfghanistanAustralia Advocacy Network.
“Such a small offering is not a compassionate humanitarian response, it is not proportionate to the unfolding crisis, nor does it reflect Australia’s responsibility to the Afghan people. Australians know this.
“Christian leaders, Afghan Australians and veterans have consistently called for an additional 20,000 Afghans to be taken in – we will not stop our appeals. Australia’s humanitarian cap has been reduced from 5,000 in 2020 to 13,750 – so we have gradually reduced our intake as it is.
“We have spent two decades in Afghanistan as part of the military campaign – it is our moral duty to bring as many people to safety as possible.”
More than 162,000 people registered on the Action for Afghanistan Petition change.org, every major Christian denomination as well as the Australian Christian Lobby have lent their support to the campaign Christians United for Afghanistan. More than 300 organizations, businesses and community groups have signed a joint letter from the Australian Refugee Council, with all of these groups urging federal parliamentarians to commit to 20,000 additional humanitarian spaces.
There is precedent for Australia to raise its humanitarian contribution in response to major global conflicts and upheavals. In 2017, the Abbott government offered safety to an additional 12,000 people fleeing Syria and Iraq, in addition to the annual humanitarian contribution.
The delegation will make the case to MPs they meet that the 2022 budget offers the government the perfect opportunity to redefine its response to the crisis in Afghanistan.
“Since the 2019 election, we have lost 28,000 humanitarian visas lost in Australia’s planned admission, due to COVID shortfalls which were later turned into permanent cuts,” said Reverend Tim Costello, Director executive of Micah Australia.
“It is well within the power of this government to make room for an additional special contribution of 20,000 additional places for refugees from Afghanistan over the next two years.
“As the Abbott government illustrated in 2015, this special contribution can enable Australia to prioritize refugees in Afghanistan without forgetting refugees in need elsewhere.
“There are currently more than 84 million forcibly displaced people in the world. There are so many needs, but instead of increasing our contribution, our federal government maintains a very tight cap on our contribution.
“If you have unexpected guests coming to your house for dinner, you don’t just cut each a smaller piece of pie – you make a bigger pie, you gift what you can.”
The delegation will meet politicians, including Immigration Minister Alex Hawke. The delegation includes:
• Rev Tim Costello, Executive Director, Micah Australia
• Mariam Veiszadeh, CEO of Media Diversity Australia, Afghanistan-Australia Advocacy Network
• Arif Hussein, Senior Advocate for RACS, Afghanistan-Australia Advocacy Network
• Glenn Kolomeitz, Director at GAP Veteran & Legal Services
• Wendy Francis, National Policy Director, Australian Christian Lobby
• The Most Reverend Chris Edwards, Bishop of North Sydney, Deputy Bishop of Sydney Archbishop Kanishka Raffel, Metropolitan of New South Wales and ACT.
• Dr. Tim McKenna, CAPSA Advisory Group Member and President of the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul Refugee Network
• Bishop Philip Huggins, Head of the Anglican Church’s Working Group on Refugee and Migrant Issues
• Matt Darvas, Country Manager, Micah Australia
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