Many people in Australia are shocked how quickly and easily the Taliban have seized control after the withdrawal of international forces. How much more shocked and scared must the Afghan population be, as well as their relatives and friends who are now living in Australia?
If you want to help, find a call to action below.
On Monday night, three members of the Afghan community in Australia gave an insight into their shock and despair at an ad-hoc online forum facilitated by the Sydney Alliance and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia. The Diocese of Parramatta is a member organisation of Sydney Alliance and collaborates with JRS Australia on the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees” and other initiatives.
It was obvious that Hava Rezaie, Hayat Akbari, and Zaki Haidari are extremely concerned for the wellbeing and life of millions of Afghans, including their own families who remain in Afghanistan. Ethnic minority groups such as the Hazaras, women, and those who worked together with the international forces are particularly under threat.
Hava Rezaie belongs to the Hazara minority. She is confident that her people are severely threatened, despite what the Taliban said in the media. Their recent rise has already resulted in increased attacks on Hazaras, including an attack on a maternity ward in which pregnant mothers and newborn babies were killed.
Many Afghan refugees who have fled the Taliban to Australia in recent years are Hazaras. Now, they face an uncertain future: despite their genuine refugee status, despite having lived here for years, and despite contributing to the Australian economy and common good, they are still on temporary protection visas. Others are still in immigration detention. However, it may never be safe again for them to return to Afghanistan. Together with refugee advocacy organisations, Hava, Hayat, and Zaki are calling for a humanitarian response from the Australian government.
Zaki Haidari recently co-authored an article in The Sydney Morning Herald, which explains what could be done: “As the Taliban seize control, here’s what Australia can do to help our people”
“Despite the inherent limitations of a middle power, and the Australian government’s insistence that we have done all we can, it still could do more to contribute to alleviating the suffering, and take small steps toward protecting minorities and women most at risk of the Taliban,” he wrote.
Building on his analysis and the expertise of various refugee advocacy organisations, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia and Sydney Alliance have put forward the following four humanitarian steps that the Australian Federal Government could take immediately:
- Introduce a substantive intake of refugees and forcibly displaced people from Afghanistan, in addition to Australia’s annual humanitarian program, noting Canada’s recent commitment to take 20,000 refugees.
- Grant permanent protection to refugees from Afghanistan who are currently in Australia on temporary visas.
- Provide people seeking asylum from Afghanistan who are currently in Australia with fair and consistent pathways to seek permanent protection, including by permitting people whose claims have been rejected to submit new applications for protection
- Enable priority access to family reunions to refugees from Afghanistan in Australia. (1)
Similar asks have been put forward by other organisations like the Refugee Council of Australia, the Asylum Seekers Centre or the Edmund Rice Centre. The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace has co-signed a letter urging Federal Parliamentarians to take urgent and decisive action.
As Haidari and his co-author explain, “There is a precedent for Australia increasing our humanitarian intake in time of dire need, the most recent being the 2015 announcement of an additional 12,000 humanitarian visas for people displaced by the crisis in Syria and Iraq” under Prime Minister Tony Abbot.
JRS Australia, Sydney Alliance and other refugee advocacy organisations are calling everyone to action who wants to help
You can call or email your local Federal MP, Senators, the Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews and/or the Prime Minister. Encourage them in what they are already doing and ask them to support the four asks above.
You can find the contact details of your local MP and Senators here.
If you prefer sending a pre-worded template email, click here.
The current plight of Afghan refugees in our Australian community adds another example to the urgent need for reform to the treatment of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. Catholics for Refugees and the members of the “150 Days of Action for Refugees” initiative are calling on Catholics across Australia to add their voice to an email campaign that asks the Federal Government for such a reform. Find out more here.
Due to the current lockdown, Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia and the House of Welcome (HoW) cannot receive physical food and toiletry donations. However, many refugee families across Greater Sydney are still relying on their foodbanks or the provision of food vouchers. In this difficult time, please support JRS and HoW with a cash donation if you can. Click here for options to donate.
(1) Source: Solidarity with Afghanistan: How you can help
This article is part of the “Diocesan Journey… Walking with Refugees and People Seeking Protection” series. Click here to learn more about this initiative and to follow our 14-weeks campaign from Refugee Week to World Day of Migrants and Refugees.
Sebastian Salaske-Lentern is the Peace, Justice and Ecology Coordinator of the Diocese of Parramatta.