Calls for more compassion and more places for Afghan refugees
January 25, 2022
The Uniting Church has joined with other churches in expressing disappointment with the Federal Government’s latest announcement in response to the plight of refugees from Afghanistan.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced that over the next four years 10,000 humanitarian and 5,000 family visas will be set aside for those who have or are fleeing Afghanistan, however, this number is inclusive of Australia's already reduced annual intake of 13,750 people.
The Uniting Church as part of the Christians United for Afghanistan campaign has described the response as inadequate and far from the generous support that is needed.
“We spent two decades in Afghanistan as part of the military campaign - it is our moral duty to bring as many people to safety as we can," said Rev Sharon Hollis, President of the Uniting Church in Australia.
"Christian leaders have consistently called for 20,000 Afghans to be taken in as an additional intake. Australia's humanitarian cap was cut by 5,000 in 2020 to 13,750 - so we've been progressively shrinking our intake as it is."
“This is not the kind-hearted, welcoming nation we want to be.”
By comparison, in 2017 Australia lifted its humanitarian intake in response to the conflicts in Syria and Iraq when it offered to bring an additional 12,000 people safety, on top of the annual humanitarian intake.
Renewed spotlight on detention of refugees
The announcement comes amid renewed spotlight on the way Australia treats refugees after tennis star Novak Djokovic was detained in the same hotel in Melbourne being used by the Government for the detention of refugees who had arrived in Australia by boat, some who have been detained for up to nine years.
“It has highlighted for Australians the high costs being paid by those who remain in detention and who have absolutely no certainty about their future,” said Rev Hollis.
“The Uniting Church has long called for and continues to call for an end to the cruel and harmful policy of indefinite, mandatory detention for people who come to Australia seeking refuge and safety.”
A joint-parliamentary inquiry is currently considering a Bill proposed by Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie to end indefinite and arbitrary detention.
In more positive news, in December the Federal government announced new measures in relation to the community sponsorship of refugees in Australia.
A new four-year ‘Community Refugee Integration and Support Pilot’ (CRISP): CRISP will enable Australian community groups to take primary responsibility for welcoming and settling 1,500 UNCHR-referred refugees over a four-year period, beginning in July 2022. In addition the current Community Sponsorship Program will become more affordable for Australians to sponsor the visa of a family member or friend.
Read the Christians United for Afghanistan media release here