Community campaign achieves 16,500 more Afghan visas

The persistent advocacy of Australia’s Afghan diaspora and many community supporters has paid off, with 16,500 additional places set aside for refugees from Afghanistan in the 2022 Federal Budget.

The allocation of 4,125 additional humanitarian places each year for the next four years will increase the annual number of humanitarian visas available to 17,875. This increases the number of visas set aside for Afghan nationals to 26,500 humanitarian visas over five years and 5,000 family visas over four years.

Earlier this month, community organisations representing former refugees from Myanmar, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Congo joined Refugee Council of Australia (RCOA) and other NGOs in an open letter calling for 20,000 additional visas for Afghan refugees and an increase in the annual humanitarian program to 20,000 places.

RCOA analysis of 2022 Federal Budget

The Australian Government’s 2022 Budget includes a mixture of increased allocations and cuts to spending on refugee-related programs, with the biggest new commitment being $665.9 million over four years for 16,500 additional refugee places.

Spending on the Government’s offshore processing policy has blown out in 2021-22 by $146 million, the seventh cost blowout in eight years. The allocation of $482.5 million in 2022-23 will take the cumulative cost of this policy since July 2013 to $9.65 billion.

The Budget includes cuts in allocations to settlement services, Australian Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Commonwealth Ombudsman and modest increases in funding for torture and trauma services and overseas aid.

New Zealand’s generosity to refugees

New Zealand’s generous offer to resettle 450 refugees from Australia’s cruel offshore processing system was announced last week, finalising an agreement proposed almost a decade ago.

The places, offered to 150 refugees each year for three years, will make a life-changing difference to people who have endured nine years in our offshore system – much of that time in locked detention.

While the agreement does not apply to the 104 people left in Papua New Guinea abandoned by the Australian Government in December, UNHCR has brokered a separate arrangement with the NZ and PNG governments.

Protection for people from Ukraine welcomed

RCOA has welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of temporary humanitarian visas for people arriving from Ukraine.

Providing protection for Ukrainians in the short term, while they hold out hope of a safe return, sets a positive precedent for other situations when people seek refuge in Australia.

Concerns are maintained, however, for the loss of more than 28,000 humanitarian visas from Australia’s Refugee and Humanitarian Program over the past two years, leaving us unprepared to respond to those who need permanent protection – including refugees from Afghanistan.

Your Voice March newsletter

The RCOA bi-annual newsletter is now available on our website, providing the latest updates on our work on a broad range of issues.

Articles include a call for action on Afghanistan as the crisis worsens, advocating for humane policies in an election year, and electing Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward, a former refugee, to lead RCOA as Board President.

A campaign update for Operation #NotForgotten, and the $1 million raised by RCOA supporters and members, is also featured.

Watch: global refugee protection needs

Displacement was the central focus of the first of our new Refugee Alternatives webinars earlier this month, where panellists explored situations for people on the ground, shared expert analysis, and empowered people to act.

Rohingya refugee activist and Chair of the Asia-Pacific Refugee Rights Network Hafsar Tamesuddin, former Australian Human Rights Commissioner Chris Sidoti, and RCOA Special Advisor Ahmad Shuja Jamal and Deputy CEO Adama Kamara spoke on mass displacement in Myanmar, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, DRC and Sudan.

The panelists also explored the connections to Australia and what Australia can do in relation to these conflicts and mass displacement, including increasing our Refugee and Humanitarian Program.

Become a Refugee Week sponsor

Increase your reach and embrace diversity through Refugee Week 2022!

Be part of a global movement and show your valued customers, your staff and the Australian communities you serve how much you care about creating harmonious, inclusive and culturally enriched communities in your back yard to help build a greater Australia for all.

Email Georgie McGrillen for more information: [email protected]

Opportunities and notices

Can you volunteer to help newly arrived refugees?

Community Refugee Sponsorship Australia is looking for volunteers to form mentor groups in some key locations, including Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Toowoomba. It’s a trailblazing Group Mentorship Program for refugees, mobilising more practical community-led support for newly arrived Afghan and other refugees in Australia.

Learn more.

The Refugee Experience

Join Deena Yako and Samah Shda from our Face-to-Face team for an interactive discussion to learn more about refugees and their experiences in coming to Australia.

Free event in Sydney from 12.30-1.30 pm on Tuesday 17 May.

Palm Sunday rallies for refugees

Join the Palm Sunday Walk for Refugees in your capital city.

Details can be found here.