Afghan-Australians fear families in danger will be rejected for humanitarian visas

There are calls for Australia to increase its Afghanistan refugee intake to 20,000, amid fears tens of thousands of Afghans at risk of persecution stand to be rejected.

Afghanistan evacuees arrive at Australia's main operating base in the Middle East.

Afghanistan evacuees arrive at Australia's main operating base in the Middle East. Source: Australian Department of Defence

Afghan-Australians are concerned loved ones whose lives are in danger in Afghanistan will be rejected from Australia's special refugee visa allocation because the program has been overwhelmed by demand.

More than 100,000 people have applied for 3,000 spots allocated so far in Australia's refugee intake of Afghans fleeing the Taliban takeover.

Officials from the Department of Home Affairs have confirmed it has received 26,000 applications in just the past seven weeks from those seeking to get people out of Afghanistan.

Hazara refugee Zaki Haidari
Source: SBS News

“There are many more people in need of protection around the world and Afghanistan than we have places available,” department official David Wilden told a Senate hearing on Monday.

That’s led to concerns tens of thousands of people will be rejected, including those with valid fears of persecution.

Sydney resident Zaki Haidari is among those hoping to bring his family, who are members of the persecuted Hazara minority group, to live with him in Australia.

But because he’s a temporary visa holder, he’s not allowed to apply for them personally and has instead sought the help of the Refugee Advice and Casework Service.

For this reason, he fears his family will be among those rejected.

“It is very hopeless,” Mr Haidari told SBS News.

“I don't know how I can deliver that message to my mum saying that the application hasn't gone through.”

Mr Haidari says his family is in hiding and most haven’t left the house amid fears Afghanistan's new Taliban rulers, who have a history of persecuting the Hazaras, are doorknocking to find allies of the previous government it toppled.

Zaki Haidari's family in Afghanistan. Their identities are being protected for their safety.
Source: Supplied

He waits anxiously for an email every day from the Department of Home Affairs, but says time for his family is running out.

“I don't know what will happen to them. But my fear grows every day given what the Taliban are doing to people in particular to Hazaras,” he said.

Afghan community representatives and refugee advocates are calling for the allocation to be raised to 20,000 - in line with pledges from other nations. Canada recently doubled its intake to 40,000.

Advocates are using a social media campaign to post photos of themselves calling for an increase to the allocation.

Afghanistan-Australian Advocacy Network’s Sitarah Mohammadi says she’s worried for those whose lives are genuinely at risk but could be rejected.

“Many people who are desperately in need of our protection in our safety will unfortunately be left out because there is only a small number of people who will make up that 3,000 allocation that the government has announced,” she said.

“I feel extremely concerned for those people who will not be saved.”

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke was unavailable for comment on Tuesday, but the government has stressed the current annual allocation is a floor not a ceiling and expects the 3,000 figure to be increased.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison will attend a virtual hook up with G20 leaders on Tuesday night to discuss the situation in Afghanistan.

The talks will centre on coordinating aid for the war-torn country, and holding the Taliban to its promise on allowing safe passage for Australian citizens and visa holders seeking to leave the country.

“I stand with G20 members in supporting international agencies delivering much needed humanitarian assistance on the ground,” he said in a statement.

“Australia is committed to helping Afghanistan build a stable and secure future.”

Published 12 October 2021 at 6:01pm, updated 12 October 2021 at 6:04pm
By Rashida Yosufzai