It is beyond depraved that all this government can do in this humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, is to offer a moratorium on sending Afghan refugees in Australia back to Afghanistan!
It is a stubborn and grossly inadequate response that is recklessly putting lives at risk. The Prime Minister must change course immediately.
The last thing we want is a refugee’s family dying in the upheaval in Afghanistan because we trapped them there.
All asylum seekers and refugees in Australia who have passed the relevant character and security tests should be granted protection visas immediately. More important, however, is the need to quickly reverse the prohibition on family reunions for refugees who arrived by boat so that they can immediately start working on getting their families out.
Anything short of this is putting women and children’s lives at risk simply to prove a political point.
Over the longer term, there needs to be a review of the way we assess protection claims in this country. An aggressive approach to finding ‘safe places’ in objectively unstable countries has been normalised, and even celebrated, in parts of the Department of Home Affairs.
It was always hard to see what benefit Australia got from refusing the visas of genuinely scared people from countries mired in civil wars.
In light of the Taliban’s victory that approach seems pure folly right now.
As a protection visa case officer in Home Affairs, the first case I ever assessed was that of a man who was part of the Hazara Shia minority in Afghanistan. I refused him because he wasn’t from a ‘dangerous part of the country’. A few months later I learned that the member of the Refugee Review Tribunal who assessed his review agreed with me and, as far as I know, he was never granted a visa.
Job well done?
I’ve always remembered that man, his name, his face, his story, and it wasn’t long before my assessments of Afghan nationals were far more cautious as I became more aware of the constant flux and change of conditions in Afghanistan. I’ve always remembered that man and it’s fair to say I have long regretted that decision.
This week, for obvious reasons, that regret turned into panic.
This person should never be returned to Afghanistan. Neither should the hundreds of other Afghans in Australia who were refused protection visas, for the most part, because they came from parts of Afghanistan that weren’t deemed ‘dangerous enough’. Now such an assessment would be laughable if the ramifications weren’t so serious.
It is clear that the victory of the Taliban has rendered all refusals of protection visas for Afghan nationals completely moot. They were made on the basis of a set of circumstances that simply do not exist anymore.
What is not obvious is how individuals from ethnic and religious minorities or who have spent a long time in Western countries will be treated by the new regime in Afghanistan. It will likely take at least half a decade before we can assess that question with any certainty.Shaun Hanns, Democrats Refugees Team Leader
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