MEDIA RELEASE 11 Sept, 2021
Thousands of people are expected to rally in Brisbane's King George Square, on Sunday 12 September, 2pm, to demand permanent visas for all Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, a special intake of at least 20,000 for Afghan refugees, and an end to Australia’s ban on UNHCR refugees from Indonesia. The Morrison government’s offer of 3000 humanitarian places, within the existing humanitarian program, has been universally criticised for being drastically insufficient to meet the needs created by the crisis in Afghanistan. The government’s feeble evacuation effort has left thousands in danger. “Australia needs to at least match Canada’s commitment to resettle 20,000,” said Ian Rintoul, a spokesperson for the Refugee Action Collective in Brisbane, “and should take even more. Australia has a very particular responsibility for Afghan refugees.” “The most immediate need is for all the temporary and bridging visas of Afghan refugees and asylum to be turned into permanent visas,” Rintoul said, “That would give thousands of Afghans settled in Australia the security they have so far been denied and also mean they would be able to bring their families that the Australian government has left in danger for many years.”
Scott Morrison was Immigration minister when Australia banned the resettlement of UNHCR refugees from Indonesia in 2014. That ban has stranded around 7,000 Afghan refugees.
Rather than welcome Afghan refugees, one of the first steps by the Home Affairs Minister, Karen Andrews, as Kabul fell to the Taliban, was to produce a video warning that any boats of asylum seekers needing protection would never get to Australia. It took demonstrations and a community outcry to force the then Abbott Liberal government to accept 12,000 Syrian refugees in 2015. The failures of Australia’s refugee assessment policies have also been exposed as many Afghan asylum seekers had their protection claims refused on the basis that they could be safely relocated in Kabul. Those claims must be urgently re-assessed. “The miserable response of the Morrison government is framed by the anti-refugee policies of Operation Sovereign Borders,” said Rintoul, “To get real justice for Afghan refugees, those policies will have to change.” The pressure on the Morrison government is set to grow. A rally for Afghan women is planned in Brisbane next weekend, Sunday 19 September. More interstate rallies are being planned for as soon as the lockdown lifts in Sydney and Melbourne. Speakers at the Brisbane rally include: Graham Perrett, Federal Labor MP, Amy McMahon, Qld state Greens MP, Hassan Ghoulam, Hazara community elder and Saajeda Samaa, Afghan law student and human rights advocate, and Ian Rintoul, Refugee Action Collective. For more information contact Ian Rintoul 0417 275 713
Photos: M. O'Callaghan