26 August 2021
CEO Message: Action for Afghanistan
This week marks 20 years since the Tampa affair, a significant moment in the history of Australian asylum and migration policy. While many things have changed in the last two decades, some remain the same. In 2001, most of the 438 asylum seekers aboard the Tampa were Hazara refugees from Afghanistan, fleeing Taliban persecution. With the Taliban takeover of Kabul recently, we are again witnessing harrowing scenes of human suffering. This time Australia must hold to our international obligations to settle displaced persons, as a signatory to the international convention of refugees.
In the past, Australia has initiated a special program to resettle 12,000 extra refugees from Syria and Iraq, as part of a global effort in response to the crisis following the Arab Spring events. Australia has deep and longstanding connections with Afghanistan and we call on the government to demonstrate a similar commitment in response to the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.
At CMY, we have heard from our staff and young people about the fear and distress of friends and family in Afghanistan who are facing life under an oppressive regime. Of particular concern, as highlighted by a recent United Nations report, is the welfare and protection of women and young girls. There are thousands of people who fear for their safety and look to countries like Australia to provide a safe haven.
CMY has worked with hundreds of Afghan young people, including unaccompanied minors that we have supported to settle in Australia. These young people and the wider Afghan diaspora have made enormous contributions to the Australian community. We acknowledge that this is an extremely distressing and difficult time for the Afghan diaspora young people here. As they struggle with feelings of helplessness, we are reaching out to check in with young people to offer support and connect them with services. But most importantly, we reach out to let them know we feel their pain and that our thoughts are with them and those in Afghanistan at this time.
The Afghan community in Australia have mobilised to set up the #ActionForAfghanistan campaign, urging the Australian government to take immediate action. CMY is a signatory to the Refugee Council of Australia petition and we endorse the call by the Afghan-Australian community and human rights organisations to the Australian Government to show international leadership and urgently take action.
We ask the Australian Government to:
- Increase the humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 prioritising the most vulnerable and persecuted.
- Grant permanent protection to over 5,000 Afghans here on temporary visas who now have no prospects of going home.
- Grant amnesty to all nationals of Afghanistan currently in Australia who fear returning to Afghanistan.
- Prioritise the family reunification visas of Afghan-Australians and provide family reunion visas for relatives at risk.
We will continue to work with our partners to push for immediate action by the Australian Government in responding to the crisis in Afghanistan.
We ask you as individuals and community organisations to make contact with your local member and urge them to take action, demonstrating that as an Australian community we expect the Australian Government to act.
Resources and information:
Australian Red Cross teams are helping people who have lost contact with family in Afghanistan. Because of the evolving situation, re-establishing contact may take some time, but ARC are urging anyone in Australia who has lost contact with relatives to please call the Restoring Family Links hotline on 1800 875 199 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org This information is also on ARC’s website and on Facebook in Dari and Pashtun: www.redcross.org.au
Refugee Legal – This information sheet by Refugee Legal outlines key information for people seeking legal help who are impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan.
The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre – Information for people impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan.