The Australian Bishops’ Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace have co-signed a letter urging Federal Parliamentarians to take seven urgent and decisive actions to support and protect Afghan citizens and asylum seekers overseas and within Australia.
Principle signatory, Refugee Council of Australia have based these actions on consensus amongst civil society groups in the Asia-Pacific region and refugee-led organisations such as the Asia Pacific Network of Refugees and members of Australia’s Afghan diaspora.
The actions are to:
- Do everything possible in coming days to evacuate people who are at grave risk within Afghanistan, including those who have worked for or assisted the Australian Government and Australian organisations (including the embassy, armed forces, NGOs and media), human rights defenders and women and girls whose lives and security are under great threat.
- Urge governments in the region to keep borders open for people trying to flee persecution in Afghanistan, including and particularly Pakistan and Iran.
- Offer additional refugee resettlement places for Afghan refugees immediately, as the Australian Government did in 2015 with 12,000 additional places for Syrian and Iraqi refugees. Canada has already announced its commitment of 20,000 additional places for Afghan refugees. Australia could match this offer and urge other resettlement states to do the same, sending a strong and positive message to states receiving Afghan refugees that the world is ready to share responsibility in the protection of lives at risk.
- As many people are now at risk from hunger and lack of shelter due to their forced displacement, immediately increase Australian aid to the region to support programs to assist people who have been displaced across borders and, wherever possible, support organisations still offering assistance within Afghanistan.
- Extend the temporary visas of all Afghan citizens in Australia, as the Government did in May for citizens of Myanmar, to assure people that they will not be at risk of imminent forced return. As part of this extension, people whose asylum claims have been previously rejected should be supported to submit new claims in the light of the changed circumstances in Afghanistan.
- Extend permanent protection to 4300 Afghans on temporary protection visas, recognising that members of this group are unlikely to be able to return in safety for many years to come and need the assurance that they can continue to live in Australia without the constant fear of forced return.
- Assist Afghan Australians, including people with temporary and permanent protection visas, withurgent family reunion applications for relatives who are at particular risk, as members of minorities targeted by the Taliban or people likely to be targeted because of their connections to western nations. This should include giving priority to finalising family reunion applications which have previously been lodged but are waiting on a decision from the Department of Home Affairs.
Individuals and organisations can show their support of these actions by contacting their local Federal Members of Parliament.
A Prayer Service, “A Prayer of Solidarity – For the People of Afghanistan” is available for use:
The Prayer Service is a collaboration between Loreto Justice Network and the ACBC Office for Justice, Ecology and Peace.