Today marks three months since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan. Since that time the reports of horrendous conditions being endured by those still trapped have been endless. The recent Senate Committee heard that more than 100,000 people have asked for help from Australia. Apart from a wholly inadequate 3,000 places taken from the existing humanitarian quota, the response from the Australian Government has been deafening silence unlike Australia’s previous responses to humanitarian crises in Syria, the Balkans, Tiananmen Square and following the Vietnam war.
Amnesty International Australia calls on Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, to publicly commit to doing more to help those living through what the United Nations World Food Programme has described as among the world’s worst humanitarian crises “if not the worst” and “a countdown to catastrophe.” Millions could starve as supplies run out and the economy collapses.
We once again ask Minister Hawke to:
- Commit to taking in at least an additional 20,000 people from Afghanistan trying to flee danger – many other countries such as the US, UK and Canada have committed to so much more
- Announce immediately major improvements to the Community Support Program (CSP), which allows communities to sponsor refugees and welcome them into their neighbourhoods – the United States’ recent announcement that it will introduce affordable, additional private sponsorship to respond to the Afghan crisis, has seen Australia left wanting
- Give those from Afghanistan on temporary visas in Australia the reassurance they need that they will never be sent back to Afghanistan, by granting them permanent visas
Speaking to the conditions in Afghanistan today, Hazara woman and founder of the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees, Najeeba Wazefadost, said: “My organisation has been working night and day trying to get supplies into Afghanistan – everything from food, to nappies and baby formula. The situation is absolutely dire. There must be more Australia can do to help.”
Zaki Haidari, a Hazara refugee from Afghanistan currently living in Australia on a temporary visa, said: “Refugees were forced to leave Afghanistan fearing for their lives from the Taliban – the same group that controls the country now. It is not safe for us to return, and it is not safe for our families to remain in Afghanistan. Our fears grow day by day for their safety.
“We have been living in limbo for the past nine years with no hope for our future, apart from the hope of one day being reunited with our wives, kids and loved ones. We are urging the Australian government to stop this uncertainty and long emotional suffering; provide us with permanent protection and allow us to sponsor our families and loved ones.”
Amnesty International’s refugee adviser, Dr Graham Thom, said: “The scale of the tragedy unfolding in Afghanistan cannot be underestimated. Day after day, the situation gets worse for countless thousands of people, and yet there has been effectively radio silence from the Australian Government since the last Australian flight left the airport in Kabul. Why are we leaving it up to other countries to do all the heavy lifting? Our response has been woefully inadequate.”
Amnesty’s lead campaigner to improve CSP, Shankar Kasynathan, said: “There is an obvious and immediate response Minister Hawke can make today – announce significant improvements to the Community Support Program. His Department has recommended it, Australian communities want it and he himself has said there will be changes. With the situation so dire in Afghanistan, now is the time to act and bring more refugees to safety here in Australia.”