Labor is concerned at the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
It has been devastating for the people of Afghanistan, for Afghan-Australians fearful for their loved ones’ safety, for the Afghan staff that supported our military and diplomatic operations for over 20 years, and for our own veterans.
We have heard horrific stories about the violence within the country and we fear for those at risk. The Morrison Government has done too little, too late, to help many Afghans and Afghan-Australians. Mr Morrison left people behind when they needed him most.
The work of the Afghanistan-Australian Advocacy Network is incredibly important in raising awareness of the situation in Afghanistan. The support received from organisations and individuals around the country shows the level of concern from Australians.
Prior to Australia’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, the Morrison Government was far too slow to act on a range of migration and visa related issues. There were significant wait times for visas that could have been issued much sooner, such as partner and locally engaged employee visas.
Now that we have entered the post-evacuation stage, the Morrison Government must implement a streamlined humanitarian process – one that gives assurances to Afghans and Afghan-Australians, their families, friends, and the community – and not one that creates more confusion. The process should offer clear and concise advice and act with urgency, given the significance of the humanitarian crisis unfolding across the country.
Mr Morrison’s response of 3,000 humanitarian visas seems piecemeal given Australia did not use its full refugee quota last year – leaving thousands of places unfilled. There are 13,750 humanitarian places available this year that must be used given the size and significance of this crisis. If the Morrison Government wants to put forward a proposal for an increased or special intake, Labor will consider it.
I am concerned that the Morrison Government hasn’t given assurances to Afghans in Australia that no one will be returned to Afghanistan. This is a simple step that would go a long way.
Labor is worried about the impact Temporary Protection Visas (TPV) and Safe Haven Enterprise Visas (SHEV) are having on Afghan refugees here in Australia. These are people that will never be able to return to Afghanistan, but will continue to live in a permanently temporary state.
These are people already in Australia right now – they are living in our community, they work here, pay taxes, create jobs, and employ Australians. Abolishing TPVs and SHEVs and converting those refugees on them to permanent protection visas has been long-term Labor policy and was recently re-adopted at Labor’s National Conference.
The Morrison Government has a responsibility to help these people. The idea that there's something temporary about this situation is wrong, particularly for people at greater risk, like the Hazara community.
Labor has encouraged the Morrison Government to work with neighbouring countries to ensure passage for those that are seeking to leave Afghanistan. Australia must show how it will work with the UNHCR and international partners to provide humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan – wherever they are in the world.
I am concerned about the Morrison Government’s handling of this crisis and Labor will be asking questions about the Government’s actions during the Senate Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade References Committee inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan.
I would urge all organisations that have signed the petition and shown their support for the Action for Afghanistan campaign to make submissions to the inquiry.