Ethnic Council of Shepparton and District has – on invitation – signed this Open Letter to the Prime Minister of Australia scribed by the Settlement Council of Australia – to urgently increase its efforts to resettle refugees from Afghanistan.
Open Letter to the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister,
As organisations working to settle refugees into Australia, we call on the Australian government to urgently increase its efforts to resettle refugees from Afghanistan. As a sector, we stand ready and able to support refugees to build safe and fulfilling lives in Australia.
We have done this before. In 2015, Australia initiated a special program to resettle 12,000 additional refugees from Syria and Iraq. Australia has a long tradition of responding decisively and generously to humanitarian crises, as further demonstrated by special intakes of Albanian Kosovars in 1999 and Vietnamese refugees following the Vietnam war. As a nation and as a sector we have the experience and capabilities for such an undertaking.
The enormity of the present crisis and the threat it poses to life and freedom cannot be underestimated and warrants a similar increased humanitarian intake as has been extended in previous crises. This has been recognised by Canada and the United Kingdom with each committing to taking 20,000 Afghan refugees.
In addition, it is critical that family reunion, especially for immediate family, be prioritised and urgently expedited. There are many Australian residents and citizens with immediate family in Afghanistan. Settlement cannot be achieved without family reunion, and the current situation requires a renewed urgency in facilitating family reunion.
Further, all Afghan refugees and asylum seekers in Australia must be granted permanent protection in light of the changed circumstances in Afghanistan. These individuals will not be able to return to Afghanistan with the Taliban in power. Given they are likely to be in Australia indefinitely, they should be granted permanency as this is critical in being able to fully participate and contribute to life in Australia.
In closing, we wish to reiterate to the government our willingness to support all Afghans seeking safety in Australia, and our readiness to support Australia in increasing its humanitarian commitment to the people of Afghanistan.
Sandra Elhelw Wright
Chief Executive Officer
Settlement Council of Australia