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Australia’s Humanitarian Visa System is Inhumane: An Open Letter to Immigration Minister Andrew Giles

By Loz Lawrey  

Dear Minister Giles,

Since my previous emails to you of 14 and 25 April and 5 May 2023 have received no answer from your office I write once again to express my concern at the treatment by Home Affairs of my friend Abdul, an Afghan citizen of Hazara ethnicity, whose application for a humanitarian visa to Australia appears to be lost in an immigration bureaucratic black hole.

Your department’s refusal to respond to genuine enquiries from members of the public enquiring as to the progress and current status of humanitarian visa applications is causing great misery to many desperate applicants who must wait in limbo for years on end while your Special Humanitarian Processing Centre (SHPC) refuses to even communicate with them about the case.

What on earth is going on?

I have been deeply shocked to realise that humanitarian visa applications lodged by desperate people whose lives are at risk can take four years or more to process. Four years!

Surely an application for a humanitarian visa is a cry for help? For prompt and timely humanitarian rescue from an inhumane situation?

I’m also astounded at the cruelty of a system which leaves applicants in the dark for so long and does not respond to requests for updated information on the progress of their visa assessments.

My friend Abdul first applied for Australia’s assistance and compassion in October 2021, after the Taliban takeover of Kabul.

His father and brother had in previous months been murdered by Taliban members in Ghazni Province.

Abdul’s appeal to Australia for help came in the form of a photo of his bare back, lacerated with whip marks. The photo was captioned: “Please save my life!”

He had been detained by the Taliban, tortured, questioned and, amazingly, released.

He then went into hiding, living in fear of possible execution by the new religiofascist regime which had taken control of the country he loved.

I’m guessing that by now Abdul was living in a state of shock at the impact the Taliban takeover had upon his life. Suddenly his dreams of contributing to society in some positive way, of working and perhaps starting a family, were shattered. His life had become a struggle for survival.

A graduate of the University of Kabul, Abdul entered the workforce in January 2016, working as a reporter for the Afghan Peoples’ Voice Weekly.

He then spent a year working in education as a teacher at Kabul’s National Institute of Educational Planning.

By the time of the Taliban arrival in Kabul in August 2021, Abdul had spent two and a half years working in a management position for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, promoting democracy and the need for free elections and the importance to all citizens of voting and having a say in the country’s direction.

At the age of 27 Abdul was a contributing citizen in his own country. He was, in fact, helping to rebuild his country after years of conflict.

Non-religious, with deeply held values around empathy, egalitarianism, human rights and the importance of democracy for the common good, Abdul has achieved an admirable level of education and a great breadth of work experience.

The Taliban are intolerant of Afghans of Hazara ethnicity. Hazaras are of Persian descent and whilst long-time residents of Afghanistan, they have always suffered similar racist “othering” as do African-Americans in the USA.

As I’m sure you already know Minister Giles, under the current Taliban regime all Hazaras resident in Afghanistan are at risk of detainment and possible execution.

Abdul realised that he would not survive for long by remaining in Kabul.

He applied for a visa to neighbouring Pakistan. The refusal took three months to arrive.

Like many others, Abdul could see no future for a safe life in Afghanistan and so paid a guide to lead him across the border on foot.

Now he lives as an illegal refugee in Pakistan. He is safer there, but he cannot work and lives under threat of repatriation to Afghanistan should he attract the attention of the local authorities.

For Abdul, repatriation to Afghanistan means almost certain death.

In his current situation, Abdul is a man without rights or citizenship.

Yet does he not deserve a place in the world? Does Australia not need new citizens?

I believe the horrors which have been inflicted upon him and his family have caused him to suffer a form of post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSD).

He continues to live in a constant state of anxiety due to the insecurity of his situation.

I have made it clear to your department that as Abdul’s proposer I commit to paying for all his travel to and resettlement costs in Australia.

He is desperate to come here to our country and is prepared to undertake any work available to him.

Surely, since approving Abdul’s application will cost your government nothing,

there is no reason to perpetuate the trauma he continues to suffer?

Every day he is forced to wait and wonder whether Australia will ever accept him damages him even more.

Why do these humanitarian visa applications take such an inhumanely long time to process?

Applicants wait in the dark for years for a decision on their case, demeaned, disrespected and unable to build a decent life in their place of refuge.

As refugees, they do not enjoy the rights of citizenship. They are forced to live in limbo while years of their lives are stolen by the structural cruelty of bureaucracy.

Minister Giles, you have not replied to my previous letters, so I am sharing this latest one with the Australian public.

Your government has recently announced that Australia’s 2023-24 permanent migration program level has been set at 190,000.

Surely such a number could include my friend Abdul?

Surely granting him a humanitarian visa would be the humane thing to do?

Best Regards, 

Loz Lawrey


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  1. Terence Mills

    The reason that you have received no reply is probably due to privacy protocols.

    Difficult as it may seem, government departments cannot correspond with ‘friends’ of parties seeking migration approval.

    You could try your local federal member.

  2. New England Cocky

    It is long over time for the Albanese Laberal government to organise the rapid processing of all applications for citizenship and residency from legal refugees, supplying the usual social service payments to those individuals and provide any necessary language skills, education and training for them to be successfully integrated into Australian society.

    Somehow the Albanese Labreal party must get over fear of corporations and Murdoch media-ocrity and act in the best interests of Australian taxpayers, rather than cower in the shadows of the last abysmal Howard -ocracy LIARBRAL coalition of misfits and self-serving shonks to ever disgrace the Australian Parliament.

  3. Harry Lime


  4. Phil Pryor

    Loz will not likely get anywhere with ths approach, but Cocky, Harry and I support much better and open actions about the refugee and immigration processes which were horribly abused recently, especially under the carbohydrate carbuncle from Queensland.

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