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States step up for Afghanistan humanitarian arrivals

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August 23, 2021

Statement by Paul Power CEO of the Refugee Council of Australia

The arrival in Perth of the first groups of Afghan nationals since the Taliban seized power clearly shows the important role state governments can play in facilitating humanitarian arrivals during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At least 3,000 humanitarian visas are anticipated to be issued to Afghans in the coming year, with a priority focus on at-risk Afghan locally-engaged employees and their families.

State and territory governments should be commended for providing 935 quarantine spaces above caps to those arriving from Afghanistan.

It is fundamentally important that quarantine space is made available so that evacuated Afghans can enter Australia directly and isolate safely.

We recognise the important role that state governments like that of Western Australia are playing in providing additional quarantine spaces for humanitarian visa holders. We commend Premier Mark McGowan for his leadership at this time.

The decision by state governments to provide additional quarantine spaces above arrivals caps is a positive example of what Australia can do when the lives of people at risk are given priority, illustrating that humanitarian action is possible during a pandemic.

Since the pandemic began, only a small number of humanitarian visa holders overseas have been able to enter Australia because of international arrivals caps and the associated limitations of quarantine space.

Humanitarian visa holders are not automatically exempt from Australia’s border restrictions and must apply for individual travel exemptions to enter Australia. Less than 1 per cent of exemptions granted since August 2020 have been granted to humanitarian visa holders.

There are currently 10,000 humanitarian visa holders who have been granted permanent visas and are waiting in countries facing humanitarian crises, including Afghanistan, Lebanon and Indonesia.

While support from state governments is important, Australians continue to ask for more decisive and effective leadership from the Federal Government.

RCOA and more than 300 organisations, business and community groups wrote to the Prime Minister and every MP last week, calling for immediate action to evacuate people at grave risk and a commitment of 20,000 additional resettlement places for Afghan refugees.

Over 300 organisations, businesses, and community groups call on all Parliamentarians to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan – Refugee Council of Australia

For further comment or to arrange an interview contact:

Refugee Council of Australia: 0488 035 535 or media@refugeecouncil.org.au