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Reluctant Acceptance: Responding to Afghanistan’s Refugees

Do not for a minute think that this is a kind, heart-felt thing in the aftermath of Kabul’s fall. True, a number of Afghans will find their way to Germany, to Canada, to the UK, US and a much smaller number to Australia. But this will be part of the curtain act that, in time, will pass into memory and enable countries to return to their harsh refugee policies.

Britain’s Home Secretary, Priti Patel, is none too enthused about welcoming high numbers of Afghan refugees. “We have to be realistic in terms of those that we can bring to the country and resettle in a safe and secure way while giving them the right opportunities going forward in resettlement.”

This waffly formulation has yielded the following formula: the UK will accept a mere 20,000 staggered over five years. Only 5,000 will be admitted in the next year, after which, presumably, the situation will resolve itself. “What are the 15,000 meant to do,” asked Labour’s Chris Bryant, “hang around and wait to be executed?”

However inadequate Britain’s response has proven, Australia’s approach remains without peer. Every excuse has been made to delay, to obstruct, to prevent an orderly transfer of Afghan interpreters and former security personnel out of the country. The Morrison government has become a specialist prevaricator, waiting for the horse to bolt before even finding the barn. Instead of bothering to use strategic common sense and see the writing on the wall for the Afghan government based in Kabul, it waited months before deciding, abruptly, to close the embassy at the end of May only to then suggest it would need to put in Australian personnel to assist in the evacuation.

The number of humanitarian visas currently being offered is a paltry 3,000. This is sharply lower than the number of Vietnamese accepted by the Fraser government after the fall of Saigon in 1975, which one estimate puts at 60,000. In 2015, 12,000 places were offered for Syrians fleeing their country. The Morrison government, in contrast, finds expanding Australia’s resettlement program beyond the current 13,750 places something of a heresy.



Behind the compassion argument, one constipated at best, is a marked reluctance to actually open the doors to the Afghans. A good deal of this can be put down to the fact that Afghans have made up a sizeable complement of those maritime arrivals Australian politicians so detest as “illegals” deserving of indefinite detention in its system of Pacific concentration camps. Many actually fled the Taliban to begin with, but that did not make immigration authorities any softer.

As the Saturday Newspaper appropriately described it, Australia’s antipathetic refugee policy has induced “a kind of moral numbness that puts decisions outside the reach of logic or decency.” Prime Minister Scott Morrison could never be said to have been taken by surprise: “he was already in the grip of indifference,” one “necessary to live with the refugee policy he has spent years shaping.”

Despite the fall of the coalition-backed Afghan national government, Australian government officials did little to reassure the 4,200 Afghans already in Australia on precarious temporary protection visas that they would not be sent back when the time came. Australian foreign minister Marise Payne offered an assessment on national radio that was far from reassuring. “All the Afghan citizens who currently are in Australia on a temporary visa will be supported by the Australian government and no Afghan visa holders will be asked to return to Afghanistan at this stage.”

One dark reminder of the brutal, and distinctly non-honeyed approach of Australia’s authorities to Afghan refugees comes in the form of a refugee and former member of an Afghan government security agency who aided coalition forces. For doing so, he was attacked by the Taliban. He arrived in Australia by boat in 2013 after having suffered a grenade attack on his home and being the recipient of various warning letters from the militants. For his efforts, he was sent to Manus Island, where he was formally found to be a refugee in 2015. In 2019, he was moved to Australia for treatment during that brief window of opportunity under the now repealed medevac legislation.

In total, he has spent eight years in detention, desperate to help his family out of the country. He had previously asked no fewer than three times to be returned to Papua New Guinea. “Every day Afghanistan is getting worse,” he writes in an email to his case manager from the behemoth that is the Department of Home Affairs. “My family is in a dangerous place and I need help now please. If you wait I will lose my family. Why do you wait? The Taliban want to kill my family.”

The email, read in open court, forms part of a case the plaintiff, given the pseudonym F, has taken against the Australian government, seeking his release. He argues that his detention prevents him from “moving my family out of Afghanistan to a safe country to save them from the Taliban.” The nature of his detention prevented him “from doing anything to help” his family.

On August 3, 2021, the Federal Court judge Rolf Driver dismissed F’s claims that his detention was unlawful and refused an order “in the nature of the writ of habeas corpus requiring his release from detention forthwith.” Judge Driver did find that the man was “a refugee and requires resettlement,” ordering mediation between him and the home affairs minister. While Australia was not an option for resettlement, the applicant should have his request to return to PNG “acted upon”.

Morrison’s ministers are full of excuses about Australia’s unimpressive effort. Defence minister, Peter Dutton, has constantly reiterated the idea that processing the paperwork is a difficult thing indeed, because some of the visa applicants cannot be trusted. Having aided Australian and other coalition forces in the past, they had proved flexible with shifting allegiances. “I’m not bringing people to Australia that pose a threat to us or that have done us harm in Afghanistan.” With such an attitude, shutting the door to the suffering, even to those who were part of the coalition’s absurd state building project in Afghanistan, will do little to trouble an unformed, unimaginative conscience.


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  1. Josephus

    Which is why readers who do not want to support the greens might consider the new party of those who agree that our constitution needs an overhaul . Human rights anyone? First Nations voice? Citizen rights ?Refugee rights?
    You may have heard about professor Kim Rubensteins new party. In the face of our own triad mob of angry male oafs out in the streets we may like to give that party a chance before sinking into total lockdown and yahoo fuelled despair.

  2. Terence Mills

    On Insiders Scott Morrison boasted that another four flights had left Kabul with 150 people, both Australian citizens and Afghan refugees : he wasn’t picked up on that number of less than forty on each flight.

  3. Kathryn

    Don’t expect ANYTHING even remotely compassionate from the horrendous, smirking, callously inhumane hypocrite, Scott Morrison! Morrison is a signed-up member of the notorious prosperity-driven, paedophile-protecting CULT of Hillsong. Morrison and his salivating attack dog, the unspeakably depraved henchman Peter Dutton, are the worst pair of corrupt, heartless sociopaths ever seen in government! The truth is that these nauseating miscreants, in reality, have the same level of compassionate “psuedo-Christianity” as a starving crocodile!

    Abbott, and now Morrison, lead the worst, most inept, loathsome, unspeakably depraved government in living memory! The LNP have PROVEN themselves to be OVERFLOWING with callously inhumane sociopaths, misogynistic skirt-lifting predators, lying conniving miscreants and offensively arrogant, smug smirking elitists who have ZERO compassion for anyone who is poor, sick or, in any way, vulnerable! Morrison, Abbott and the rest of the bible-thumping hypocrites that line the cabinet of this reprehensible, undemocratic regime, are SO cruel, SO depraved, SO corrupt and SO malevolent, they are beyond description! They hold the bible in one hand while pompously and sanctimoniously preaching to Australians – whilst, simultaneously, lying, conniving, stealing, rorting and wasting hard-earned taxpayer funds on themselves, their billionaire donors in the Top 1% or expending VAST sums of money on ridiculous, short-sighted, politically-motivated and corrupt schemes aimed at benefiting themselves or their corporate sycophants!

    The TRUTH is that the MorrSCUM regime don’t give a sh*t for ANYTHING or anyone with a pulse other than THEMSELVES or their smug, billionaire donors (selfish, profit-obsessed right-wing sycophants like Gina Rinehart, Twiggy Forrest and, of course, their depraved Propaganda Minister, Rupert Murdoch)! The LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance is a cartel of totally depraved, morally bankrupt, self-obsessed sociopaths who are prepared to crawl over the bodies of ordinary hard-working Australians in order to enrich and empower themselves and the avaricious, self-serving parasites in the Top 1%. Why would the misogynists in the LNP care what the misogynistic Taliban do or refuse to do?

    The tragedy is that the LNP were the FIRST idiots to put their hands up to slavishly follow the disgusting racist Republican grubs in the USA to INVADE Afghanistan and Iraq – a deplorable action that has, in effect, cost Australia and America TRILLIONS of dollars and has achieved NOTHING except the total destabilisation of the middle east for decades to come as well as the displacement of MILLIONS of people throughout Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria! Now they are the FIRST to put their hands up to cowardly abandon countless thousands of our Afghani allies to the brutally savagery, torture and genocidal murder of Afghani minorities (such as the numerous ethnic minority groups within Afghanistan) at the hands of the primitive, stone-aged troglodytes in the Taliban who completely intolerant of ANY other religion except their own twisted, misogynistic and primitive distortion of the Koran!

    Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic and mostly tribal society whose population of the country consists of numerous ethnolinguistic groups: Pashtun, Tajik, Hazara, Uzbek, Aimaq, Turkmen, Baloch, Pashai, Nuristani, Gujjar, Arab, Brahui, Qizilbash, Pamiri, Kyrgyz, Sadat and others – ALL of these groups will be hunted down like dogs by the insufferably intolerant uneducated and primitive Neanderthals in the Taliban.

    Now that the Taliban have been allowed to usurp power in Afghanistan, they will, no doubt, drag this nation back to the stone age! The Taliban have a long-held hatred and fear of educated women and their relentless fight to prevent the advancement and education of young girls and women has received worldwide condemnation! The absolute domination of women, the cowardly beatings of women for committing the slightest infraction against their patriarchal distortion of the Koran (eg accidentally showing their ankles), the complete subjugation, humiliation and merciless persecution and inhumanity perpetrated against women (and young girls) has been clearly evident at the hands of the Taliban because they are an uneducated, regressive and despicably callous cartel of primitive misogynists who THRIVE on intolerance, division, hate, fear and an appalling level of women-hating misogyny! The Taliban also maintain a deep-seated mistrust of academics, teachers or anyone who is more educated than they are which, let’s face it, is about 99.9% of anyone with a pulse!

    The Neanderthals in the Taliban make smirking PROMISES that they won’t take away the basic human rights of women, academics and minorities – but they will, they most definitely will, because inhumanity, misogyny and a callous disregard for anyone and everyone who do not toe the medieval ideology of the patriarchal barbarians in the Taliban, will be met with beatings, beheadings and genocidal murder! You just wonder HOW these bastards must relate to their mothers or sisters??

  4. Andrew J. Smith

    Different responses of Fraser and Morrison also represents a line in the sand on ideology i.e. the former normal Liberal following contemporaries such as Victorian Premier Rupert Hamer of the ’70s supporting multiculturalism and related communities.

    This is opposed to the imported US radical right libertarian Christian ideology (now with the imprimatur of Koch Networks), also adopted by Thatcher, that Howard followed, joined at the hip with Anglo exceptionalism, eugenics and white nativism (born of John Tanton Network admirer of white Oz policy and informed Trump White House).

    UK Tories and Australian LNP, ably supported by most legacy media, have now wedged themselves into both demanding constraint free business (especially corporations) with negative social policies i.e. dog whistling of immigration or population growth and hostile environment for refugees round the ‘great replacement’ theory.

  5. wam

    Sadly, keep them guessing and they might vote for the devil they know, has worked for turnbull and scummo when anyone who thought about the rabbott and his joey would have dumped them in 2016.

  6. Fred

    How can Australia hold its head up?

    Any sentient human with even the slightest knowledge of (contemporary) history and a modicum of logic could imagine the resurgence/coming out of hiding of the Taliban after circa 20 years of foreign “help”/occupation and massive corruption once withdrawal was announced. Any security analyst worth their salt knew that the Taliban, Al Queda, ISIS and others have a presence in Afghanistan.

    Our reputation for “looking after our mates” has been destroyed. I’m embarrassed by our pathetic excuse for leaders.

  7. Consume Less

    My question is, why did Australia take so long to start airlifting the Afghan allies. This could have been completed well before the Taliban took over Kabul. We were hearing pleas to get out months ago, there was plenty of warning. The excuse about the rapid Taliban advance is a cop out. It is like our corrupt Australian government is doing its best to take as few people as it can.

  8. BB

    Consume Less.
    The answer to your pertinent question is really quite simple.
    This bastard L/NP RW government has never had any intention on evacuating anybody not in “The Club” from anywhere.

    Including our citizens stranded in foreign countries due to wars and/or covid. Morrison & co simply couldn’t give a rat’s arse!

    Delay delay delay, any excuse will do. Oh the expense, bla bla, covid covid covid. Security threats. Terrorists will sneak in!

    Then, and only then due to public pressure and trying to make out how wonderful and caring the L/NP government is, do Morrison & co pull their fingers out of their arses with too little and too late. Typical standard L/NP Modus Operandi.

    I trust folks remember these RW bastards at the coming Federal elections and put the L/NP LAST on their ballot paper…

    Kick the RW L/NP bastards OUT

  9. BB

    Morrison’s reason when asked why was he not evacuating Afghan refugees to Australia…

    “I don’t fly a plane”

  10. paul walter

    Coked on my cornflakes yesterday on reading that they were keeping out Afghanis who worked with the government; makes Ralph Nickleby seem heroic by comparison.

    I move to full despise mode.

    Are they so intent on retaining the charade of foreigners coming here, that must leave dozens of living, suffering humans to the tender mercies of the Taliban.

    For a “Christian”, Morrison sure plays the role of Pontius Pilate well. The hard line is kept up to any every cost and much suffering is engendered regardless of necessity, let us indeed swap disclosed and matter of fact reality for egregious cruelty.

  11. New England Cocky

    @Terence Mills: Naughty Terence! Observing that Scummo is boasting about a negligible result!! Where was the comparison of Australia’s efforts compared to any other national evacuation numbers?

    @Kathryn: You splendid rhetorical questions identifying the self-aggrandisement by Little Johnnie Howard ignores the about $4 BILLION cost to Australian taxpayers & voters for supporting the imperialist ambitions of American multinational corporations wanting to exploit Afghanistan’s natural resources for American profit.

    Remember Australia subsidises the US NE military industrial complex by purchasing third rate armaments at enormous expense, rather than develop our own military capability. Remember the Owen gun and over the horizon radar?

    @Consume Less: What else would you expect from a White Supremacist political party led by an unChristian Prim Monster and his Coven of Hell$inger$ Choru$ for Greed & Paedophile Protection?

    @paul walter: Happy to see that you have joined the group who despair about our Australian future given that our misgovernment prefers lies to the truth and rebuffing Christian ethics in favour of American greed theology.

  12. paul walter

    Exactly NEC.

    It has become physical, the revulsion felt watching them on teev.

  13. Kathryn

    @ New England Cocky – I apologise for omitting yet more and MORE of John Howard’s unspeakably evil incidences of war mongering, self-serving corruption and callous inhumanity! Sadly, space is insufficient on this forum – if I had to list EVERY ghastly deed, incident of criminal corruption and malfeasance, committed by the truly loathsome John Howard, I would have a document that would closely resemble the Dead Sea Scrolls …. 🙁

  14. Jack sprat

    It’s the continuing story of the adoption of Pauline Hangsome policies by the LNP which first began with the lying rodent John Howard which sees the delays and lack of support of afghan refugees . Xenophobia ,unfortunately is still a big vote winner for any of the major parties in Austraalia .

  15. New England Cocky

    @Kathryn: Do I sense a series of articles coming, or is it a substantial PhD submission analysing the destruction of the Australian way of life by one of the least competent Liarbral Prim Monsters since Federation in 1901?

    I can see it now, the unofficial biography of ”The Lying Rodent” detailing his crawl to the leadership at the expense of those better qualified and more competent, the populist polices that put his continued incumbency above everything else, and finally Australia’s revenge, or rather Bennelong electorate’s revenge when Maxine McCue (Labor) beat him out of both his seat and government, only the second politician to lose both positions simultaneously.

  16. Brozza

    @ New England Cocky – indeed, 24/11/07. A day to rejoice.

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