The Australian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) has called on the federal government to expand its intake of Afghan refugees, prioritising the families of Afghans in Australia, and those who are most at risk of persecution.
Commission president Rosalind Croucher on Friday said the AHRC’s concerns about the human rights situation in Afghanistan had only been heightened by the recent attacks on Kabul airport.
The government has allocated 3,000 places for Afghan nationals within its existing refugee resettlement program. While the commission has welcomed this, it has urged the government to expand the scheme, as it did when offering an additional 12,000 places to people fleeing Syria in 2015.
“Other comparable nations, such as the United Kingdom and Canada, have announced that they will resettle 20,000 Afghan refugees, and Australia should similarly consider expanding its intake,” the commission said in a statement.
“The intake should prioritise family members of Afghans in Australia, and members of groups that are at particular risk of persecution in Afghanistan – including the Hazara, women and girls, and LGBTIQ people.”
The commission has also asked the commonwealth to consider granting permanent protection to around 4,000 Afghan asylum seekers and refugees in Australia who hold temporary protection visas (TPVs) and safe haven enterprise visas (SHEVs).
“We have asked for an urgent reassessment of all Afghan asylum seekers who have not received a positive protection finding, in light of the changed conditions.” Croucher said.
The commission noted that many Afghan TPV and SHEV holders are part of the ‘legacy caseload’ — asylum seekers who arrived in Australia by boat before 2014, and have faced long delays in the processing of their visa applications.
Similarly, the commission has raised concerns about Afghans in immigration detention.
“The commission notes that there are currently 55 Afghans in closed immigration detention facilities, including refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom have faced extensive periods of detention with material impacts on their mental health,” Croucher said.
“I commend the government’s recent announcement that no Afghans will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation remains dire. Given there are no real prospects of them returning to Afghanistan for the foreseeable future, the commission has also urged the commonwealth to consider their release into the community, where possible, and with appropriate conditions if necessary.”
Croucher has met with and written to home affairs minister Karen Andrews in recent weeks to express the commission’s concerns.