Australia’s refugee policy is notoriously abhorrent, with our offshore detention and treatment of ‘illegal’ asylum seekers actually at some points violating international human rights laws. But despite being keenly aware of that, I still feel a sickening, blood boiling rage at this country’s stance on the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Afghanistan. Because, unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has announced that Australia will not be giving permanent residence to Afghans fleeing the Taliban if they come by boat.
In case you haven’t been across the news, the US pulled out of Afghanistan after 20 years of war, creating a power vacuum that saw the Taliban seize control with incredible speed.
The Taliban are fundamental religious extremists, and under their previous rule, women were not allowed to go to school, banned from working and forced to wear the burqa. Music and TV were banned, adulterers were publicly executed and thieves were mutilated.
Given their reclaimed status as the leaders of the country, many Afghans desperately tried to flee the oppressive regime, with tragic scenes unfolding as the world watched.
On social media, devastating footage appeared on social media of droves of Afghans flooding airports that literally didn’t have the plane capacity to evacuate them all, with people clinging onto planes, and even falling off them mid air. I couldn’t watch those last ones, but the footage has led to huge efforts from around the world in supporting Afghans and helping them find asylum in other countries.
The Australian government hasn’t expressed that compassion. On Wednesday, PM Scott Morrison ruled out following Canada in their commitment to resettle 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, instead stating Australia will only provide 3000 humanitarian visas to Afghan nationals.
“That’s more than double what we’ve been doing and in some cases triple what we’ve been doing in the current year. And we do believe we’ll be able to do more than that,” he said.
does he understand what a refugee is? when fleeing from persecution people tend not to wait dutifully in line whilst immigration papers follow a protracted bureaucratic process. I guess you’d need to possess some empathy to understand this though.
— rodster (@rodster81374128) August 18, 2021
The PM then announced that Afghans on temporary protection visas who come to Australia by boat will not be given permanent residence.
“We will only be resettling people through our official humanitarian program going through official channels,” he said.
“We will not be allowing people to enter Australia illegally, even at this time.
“Our policy has not changed. We will be supporting Afghans who have legitimate claims through our official and legitimate processes. We will not be providing that pathway to those who would seek to come any other way. That is a very important message. The government’s policy has not changed, will not change.
“I want to be very clear about that. I want to send a very clear message to people smugglers in the region that nothing’s changed.
“I will not give you a product to sell and take advantage of people’s misery. My government won’t do it. We never have and we never will.”
There is so much about these statements that is upsetting, it’s hard to know where to start.
Perhaps the fact that Morrison can decide what the “right” way to escape terrorism is. Seeking asylum by boats is actually not illegal by international law.
And anyway, as if people are purposefully choosing ways that are difficult and dangerous. As if this isn’t an attempt of survival. Reducing Afghans to a product of profit for smugglers, rather than real people with real agency who deserve to survive, is unfair and deflective.
Morrison. Amazing. Reaches new lows every day
A good old boat scare, then his ‘generous’ offer: 3,000 refugee places
Still NO mention of families of Australians in Afghanistan or visa delays
Afghan TPV refugees will “never” settle permanently, but they’ll never have to leave🤦🏻♂️
— Julian Hill MP (@JulianHillMP) August 18, 2021
But furthermore, the fact that we have seen the state of airports right now. That we have watched heart-breaking footage with our own eyes of overcrowded airports and Afghans falling from the sky.
How can we as a country refuse asylum seekers who come by boat when some literally don’t have access to planes?
Especially when Morrison also announced the devastating fact that we will not be rescuing all the Afghan interpreters that assisted the ADF.
Defence Minister Peter Dutton‘s comments have been equally lacking in compassion, saying that Afghans who assist the Taliban out of desperation for their survival will not be rescued by Australian forces.
“There are some wonderful people who have supported us at a point in time 10 years ago and they’ve now gone on to work for the Taliban, they’re working for al-Qaeda, they’re acting out against our allies and their allegiances have shifted,” he said.
“They’ve done that for survival or for their own purposes, their own intents,” he acknowledged, but continued to say “we’re not bringing those people to our country.”
If they are wonderful, and doing what they need to survive, why does this remove the value of their human life? Why is the value of an Afghan refugee’s life limited to their economic and political value to the ADF?
It’s heartbreaking, and I only hope that other countries pull through and assist fleeing Afghans in more meaningful ways than Australia is.