The Australian government has made much of its assistance to Afghan refugees claiming it has already accepted 3,000 refugees from the country. What they don’t say is that the 3,000 is simply a part of our existing humanitarian intake of just 13,750 places.
We have done nothing extra to help a country and its people in crisis. Nothing.
What’s the scale of the problem? At the beginning of 2021, 2.6 million citizens of Afghanistan were refugees, 239,000 were seeking asylum and 2.9 million were internally displaced. The Taliban’s takeover of the country, culminating in the capture of Kabul in August 2021, is resulting in ever-increasing displacement. By September 2021, UNHCR had reported 22,120 newly arrived refugees in neighbouring countries and 592,531 people internally displaced since January 2021.
Many more people in Afghanistan are yet to be displaced but fear for their lives because of their work as women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, government officials or staff employed by embassies or western armed forces or because of their religion, ethnicity, or sexual orientation.
For a personal view read the story written anonymously for the Guardian newspaper by a young woman in Kabul who was burning and hiding all her educational certificates in fear of the Taliban.
So as an affluent and safe country, Australia must do more. Helping just 3,000 people is not enough. The Refugee Council is lobbying the government to accept 20,000 refugees. We have done it before when we assisted Chinese Vietnamese and Syrian and Iraqi refugees in crisis.
We have a long relationship with Afghanistan. Over 20 years, Australia deployed 39,000 defence personnel to Afghanistan at a cost of $10 billion and spent $1.9 billion on projects to support women’s empowerment, human rights, education, health, and good governance.
We can’t just sit by and let all our excellent work disappear under the hands of the Taliban. We need to step up and match the work done by other countries around the world.
Accepting 3,000 refugees is not enough.