Oxfam Australia is calling on the Federal Government to urgently do everything in its power to ensure all those at risk are able to leave Afghanistan safely, as reports emerge that evacuation missions will soon begin to wind down ahead of the US military’s departure, one week from today.
The aid organisation’s Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said that, as a country that spent 20 years involved in a conflict on Afghanistan soil, which took the lives of tens of thousands of civilians, Australia had a moral obligation to see this evacuation mission through to its completion.
“Now is the moment for the Australian Government to use all measures available to ensure those who fear for their safety have the best possible chance of evacuating the country in time.”
Ms Morgain also urged the Australian Government to commit to playing a role in monitoring and protecting the human rights of those who will remain in the country, and providing additional aid in response to the emerging humanitarian crisis.
Oxfam has been implementing women’s economic empowerment programs in Afghanistan for six years with the support of the Australian Government. The agency is calling for Afghan citizens who have worked with international NGOs, women’s rights activists, human rights defenders, LGBTIQ+ people and advocates, media, women and girls, and members of ethnic and religious minority groups to be provided with urgent assistance if they seek to leave the country for fear of persecution.
Ms Morgain said the Government’s response to the urgent and critical need for humanitarian support should include the provision of additional places now for refugees on top of the existing humanitarian program.
“Even before this latest development, Afghanistan was already facing multiple challenges including COVID-19 and a hunger crisis, with many already forced from their homes due to conflict and drought,” Ms Morgain said.
“As we did in 2015 for Syrian and Iraqi refugees, we must acknowledge the extraordinary nature of this situation by committing further places for Afghan people fleeing persecution. Canada has pledged an additional 20,000 places, and we should match that.”
Oxfam Australia has shared its concerns with Prime Minister Morrison as violence and chaos continues to trap people in their homes in Kabul and prevent those with visas from getting to the airport, and as confusion reigns over who is eligible for Australian Government assistance.
Ms Morgain said support should also be extended to those people already in third countries and those living in Australia on temporary visas and their families – as well as those left behind.
“While we continue to hope for peace for the people of Afghanistan, now is a time of great uncertainty and instability,” Ms Morgain said. “We cannot wash our hands of this situation because our military involvement in the country has come to an end.”
“As the situation settles in the coming weeks, months and years, we believe the Australian Government has an important role to play alongside other national governments, the United Nations and global institutions to monitor and protect the human rights of citizens continuing to live in Afghanistan.
“The Australian Government must also contribute its fair share to responding to any humanitarian crisis that emerges in the coming weeks and months, by committing additional funding to support those on the ground to respond.”
Last week, Oxfam joined more than 300 organisations signing onto a joint letter outlining seven urgent actions the Government should take to respond to the growing crisis in Afghanistan.
For interviews, contact Lily Partland on 0418 118 687 / firstname.lastname@example.org