Refugee legal services stand in support of urgent action for Afghanistan

Media Release

31 August 2021

Community Legal Services across Australia have announced their support for the call made by the Afghan Australian Advocacy Network for the Morrison Government to take immediate steps to protect the Afghan community, particularly those already here in Australia.

This latest call comes after the bombing of Kabul Airport last week that took the lives of over 100 people. In response, the Australian Government announced an end to the evacuation mission from Afghanistan with the withdrawal of all Australian troops.

Today also marks the official withdrawal of US-led Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and signifies the start of the new regime in Afghanistan.

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service, the Human Rights Law Centre, the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, Refugee Legal, Circle Green Community Legal and Refugee and Immigration Legal Service, stand alongside the Afghan Australian Advocacy Network (AAAN) in calling for the Australian Government to take immediate action by implementing critical, simple and straightforward steps.

This includes providing permanent protection to the 4,200+ refugees on temporary protection visas here in Australia. Prioritising the family-reunification visas of Afghan-Australians. And lifting the ban on resettlement of refugees to Australia through the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Indonesia.

The AAAN are also calling for an urgent commitment to an additional humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 places, prioritising the most vulnerable persecuted people of Afghanistan.

Whilst the Australian Government has withdrawn evacuations from Kabul, the evacuation mission could continue from neighbouring states and other locations where safety has been sought and Australia could resettle safely from.

Sarah Dale, Centre Director and Principal Solicitor, Refugee Advice and Casework Service: “Most of my legal life I have followed with horror the news that comes out of Afghanistan, but this current crisis is utter devastation.

“Despite evacuations having ceased currently, there still many things the Australian Government can and must do to ensure the safety of people from Afghanistan here in Australia. Despite a commitment this morning that the Government will implore the Taliban ensure safe passage for those needing to come to Australia; we still need tangible, practical steps taken here at home – for example a commitment to 20,00 humanitarian places now, and permanent protection for those in our care.

“We are a country that prides ourselves on giving ‘a fair go’ to all, on equality for women and minority groups, on democratic freedoms. We call on the Australian Government to stand for those values that make the Australian community proud and show compassion and humanity.”
David Burke, Legal Director, Human Rights Law Centre: “Australia has a moral duty to step up for the people of Afghanistan. After intervening in the US-led war two decades ago, the Morrison government must not abandon a single soul, neither here in Australia nor the people being forced to flee after the violent Taliban takeover.

“The Prime Minister could today grant permanent protection to those who are currently on temporary protection visas in Australia, commit to an additional humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 people and prioritize family reunion for people split across our two countries. The Australian government cannot walk away from what will be an ongoing humanitarian disaster.

Dr Carolyn Graydon, Principal Solicitor at the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre: “What is needed is a generous and practical response from Australia to assist the families of Afghan Australians suffering in Afghanistan. As previous Governments have done during times of humanitarian crisis involving affected Australian communities and interests, there needs to be more places committed and streamlined processes to allow people to escape from Afghanistan or bordering countries to be swiftly reunited with their families before they are killed or further harmed.

“It is one of those moments when the Australian Government will be judged for its values, morality and compassion and for its competence in saving lives and preventing further suffering.”

Gregory Rohan, Director, Immigration Advice and Rights Centre: “We can and must do more for the people of Afghanistan, especially for those with family in Australia.”

“With the stroke of a pen, the Minister could immediately increase Australia’s Humanitarian intake, prioritising high risk groups and people with Australian relatives; expedite the processing of Family stream visas for the family of Australian citizens and permanent residents in Afghanistan; and grant permanent protection to the thousands of people from Afghanistan in Australia on temporary visas who cannot return home.

“Australia has stepped up in times of crisis before. Now is the time to step up again and act quickly to alleviate some of the suffering for people from Afghanistan here and their families back home.”

David Manne, Executive Director & Principal Solicitor, Refugee Legal: “Amidst the devastating crisis in Afghanistan, Australia has a fundamental obligation to immediately step up and do more to respond to the desperate plight of Afghan people. It must start with lifting the humanitarian intake by at least an extra 20,000 people.”

“Australia has deep and longstanding connection with people from Afghanistan, whether through family and friends, or working with the Australian Government and NGOs and others. There is a driving moral responsibility to act now and not abandon so many people in danger and distress. We must evacuate people at imminent risk, grant permanent protection to Afghans on temporary visas, reassess refused cases, and expand family reunion for relatives at risk. Australia has a deep tradition of stepping up at times of humanitarian crisis to provide direct help and international leadership. It is incumbent upon Australia to do so again now.”

Katy Welch, Managing Solicitor, Circle Green Community Legal: “Australia needs to provide a substantial humanitarian response to the people in Afghanistan and to the Afghan community who have made Australia their home. There is a need for realistic and practical options to secure peoples safety and for family in Australia to seek family reunification regardless of visa status, citizenship or mode of arrival.”

“The outpouring of grief by the Afghan community has been overwhelming. The current commitments by the Australian Government are disheartening and clearly insufficient given the scope of the crisis.”
The Afghan Australian Advocacy Network is made up of people from diverse ethnic and religious groups which form the Afghan Australian community, including academics, lawyers, health workers, advocates, community workers, tradespeople, educators, mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters.

Their open letter signed by 9000+ individuals and 300 organisations, has received over 165,000 signatures in endorsement.
The Action for Afghanistan petition is here. 


Media Contact: Emma Davies, 0408 840 567

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