The Settlement Council of Australia (SCOA), the peak body for Australia’s migrant and refugee services, has today urged the federal government to increase its commitment to accepting humanitarian entrants from Afghanistan.
She added, “Our services are ready and willing to support refugees fleeing Afghanistan. In 2015, we supported a special intake of 12,000 refugees from Syria and Iraq. We must do the same and more in the face of this crisis.”
The current situation is not unlike that leading to the most recent Syrian-Iraqi intake, or special intakes of Albanian Kosovars in 1999, and of Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam war.
Ms Wright said “Our settlement service infrastructure exists precisely for the purpose of being mobilised in moments like this. We are asking the Federal Government to match offers by Canada and the UK to resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, and to trust our services to help them settle well.”
She added, “It is this pledge to accept refugees in the wake of humanitarian crises that has been a crucial part of the rich fabric of Australian history. Extending boundless plains to those who need it most is part of our Australian values.”
Family members of those already in Australia must be urgently prioritised. There are many Australian residents and citizens with immediate family in Afghanistan. There is uncertainty about how family members will return once evacuations are completed. People cannot feel settled without being reunited with their families, and the current situation requires a renewed urgency in facilitating family reunion.
The Council also urged that permanency be offered to members of Afghan communities who are currently in Australia and unable to return, including those on Temporary Protection Visas.
“We have a situation now where people from Afghanistan are going to be in Australia indefinitely due to the instability in Afghanistan. We need to give them permanency so that they can build lives in Australia.” Ms Wright said.
The Council expressed its heartfelt solidarity for the Afghan diaspora in Australia, who have contributed enormously to Australia since the time of the Afghan cameleers.
The Council encouraged members of the Afghan diaspora to reach out to local services for help, including to their member organisations and others working alongside migrant and refugee communities.
Ms Wright added “While experiencing distress and grief, the Afghan diaspora has shown tremendous leadership, resilience and strength. Their exemplary leadership in recent days shows us how much we have to gain from bringing in more refugees from Afghanistan.”
The Council has pledged to continue to support Afghan communities through the current situation. SCOA will continue to listen to the valuable insight of Afghan community members and leaders, work through the logistics and practicalities with government, and offer our settlement services to new Afghan arrivals.
Source: Settlement Council of Australia Media Release