Afghan-Australians On What The Federal Government Needs To Do Right Now
"It’s really heartbreaking to see the lack of support that our government is willing to provide...this is a war that they chose to participate in".
For Afghans in Australia, watching last week’s events unfold overseas has left the community feeling helpless and heavy-hearted — emotions that have been intensified by the Morrison Government’s insufficient response to Afghanistan’s humanitarian crisis.
The forced dismantling of Afghanistan’s government by militants has left the country looming in fear over what the future will look like under the return of Taliban rule.
Lawyer, advocate, and former refugee Hava told Junkee it was shocking to see predictions that Kabul would be taken within 60 days after Taliban encroachment began — and even more concerning when the country’s capital actually fell in less than 24 hours.
“It’s really hard for the public outside Afghanistan. Lots of stress, worry, and anxiety from my community about our family inside Afghanistan,” she said.
Wading In Uncertainty
People on the ground are calling it some of the darkest days in Afghanistan’s history. Hava explained that her loved ones feel besieged, empty, and betrayed — not only from the country’s leaders, but from the international community as well — with America and their allies having swept up their troops after decades of interference just to turn a blind eye in their recent absence.
An estimated 12,000 people have been evacuated from Kabul so far, but tens of millions spread throughout Afghanistan are anxiously waiting to see what will happen next. Hogai is an Afghan-born Australian who has been constantly checking in with her aunt, uncle, and their children, who are currently in Afghanistan’s north.
“They’re all scared because they lived under Taliban ruling 25 years ago when they first took over…”
Hogai told Junkee her family is staying put inside the house, and have hidden a few documents that they fear would put their lives in danger if found in the wrong hands. She is yet to hear from her relatives in Kabul, but says she thinks they’re likely laying low as well.
“They’re all anxious, they’re all scared because they lived under Taliban ruling 25 years ago when they first took over,” said the 33-year-old. “They saw the chaos that unfolded then, so they’re scared that the same thing is going to be repeated this time”.
Hava shared her concerns, particularly for the minority Hazara ethnic group she belongs to, who have historically faced massacres from extremist groups, and increased attacks as of late. Amnesty International disclosed last week the murder and torture of nine Hazara men at the hands of the Taliban in July.
“Yes, Afghanistan is very far from us, and it’s very different from our society, and we might think what’s happening over there is completely unrelated to us. We have to understand it on a human-to-human basis. There are women, children, babies, elderly people that are sick, that need our help,” said Hogai.
The Correct Response
The right course of action from Australia is clear as day for everyone except the Morrison Government.
Hava wants to see 20,000 additional emergency visas allocated to people fleeing Afghanistan, joining the commitments of the UK and Canada, with protection for women, LGBTIQ+ advocates, journalists, as well as persecuted religious and ethnic minorities.
She said that Afghan refugees currently on temporary protection visas in Australia should also be granted the security of a permanent protection visa or citizenship so they can “finally restart their lives without the prospect of being returned to Afghanistan”, and that the government should be providing more humanitarian and financial aid to the Afghan population.
Scott Morrison and the Home Affairs office bolstered their initial measly deflection on the topic, to 3000 dedicated spots in the next ten months for Afghans, within its already slashed annual international refugee intake. Australia’s immediate rescue efforts remain centred on evacuating stranded citizens and permanent residents, their relatives, and visa holders.
The prime minister also maintains he won’t assist the bulk of interpreters and Afghans who assisted Australia during its two decade military mission, despite the threats to their lives.
“It’s really heartbreaking to see the lack of support that our government is willing to provide, considering that we were a major ally to the United States, and this is a war that they chose to participate in,” said Hogai.
Call To Action
As far as individual assistance, Hogai recommended donating to groups like the Afghan Community Support Organisation or the UN Refugee Agency, writing to your Member of Parliament to express outrage, and offering support to Australia’s Afghan community.
“Check in on your Afghan friends, colleagues, and family that they’re OK, because they would most likely be really disturbed and affected by the current situation there. It’ll be themselves, or their parents who fled the previous regime under the Taliban, or another violent regime that has occurred because Afghanistan has been under constant war for the past 50 years,” she said.
“We just need to create a community and make each other feel like we’re able to support one another”.
Photo Credit: Refugee Action Collective Queensland