Refugees from Afghanistan rally at Parliament House to demand permanent residency

A large mass of demonstrators took over the front lawn of Parliament House demanding permanent pathways for refugees in Australia who have fled Afghanistan up to a decade ago.

Refugees and people seeking asylum from Afghanistan rally outside Parliament House in Canberra

Refugees and people seeking asylum from Afghanistan rally outside Parliament House in Canberra. Source: AAP

Demonstrators from across the country have turned up at Parliament House demanding the federal government provide permanent living options for refugees who have fled Afghanistan. 

Hazara refugee Zaki Haidari arrived in Australia in 2012 after fleeing his home country and was granted a temporary protection visa.

Ten years later, he says he has no adequate pathway of permanently resettling in Australia, the country he now considers home.

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Zaki Haidari is a Hazara refugee who helped organise the protest at Parliament House in Canberra.
Zaki Haidari is a Hazara refugee who helped organise the protest at Parliament House in Canberra. Source: Supplied/Zaki Haidari


He is among one of approximately 5,000 people from Afghanistan living in Australia living in limbo - and is calling on the federal government to grant a more certain future for him and his community. 

"We're here today to call on the Australian government to provide a pathway for people to call Australia, the beautiful country, their home country, but also to allow them to sponsor our families because our families are living at great risk in Afghanistan," he told SBS News. 

"The thing about a temporary life, a life living on temporary protection is that it is a life without hope, a life without a future."

Mr Haidari said he has to renew his temporary protection visa every three years, in a "cycle that keeps repeating" itself - forcing refugees like himself to relive the trauma of their experiences. 

"We have to keep living with our memories and what happened to our country because we have to keep [applying for visa applications]," he said.

 
Large number of protesters from Afghanistan calling for permanent pathways to resettling in Australia.
Large number of protesters from Afghanistan calling for permanent pathways to resettling in Australia. Source: SBS News


"This will keep people mentally in the same position that they left their country, and that destroys people.

"The issue is that this will keep refugees temporary forever." 



Temporary protection visas are for people who have arrived in Australia without a visa and want to seek asylum. They do not provide a pathway to permanent residency. 

The federal government reassured refugees they will not be deported to Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban's takeover of Kabul in August 2021. 

"No Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire," Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said last year. 

'Generous humanitarian program'

In response to today's gathering a spokesperson from the Department of Home Affairs told SBS it operates "a generous humanitarian program, while its policy on combatting people smuggling remains unchanged.

"The Australian Government’s policy is steadfast - people who travel illegally to Australia by boat will not permanently settle in Australia," the spokesperson said.

Unlawful arrivals "are only eligible for temporary protection (that is, either a Temporary Protection visa (TPV) or a Safe Haven Enterprise visa (SHEV)".

But Mr Haidari and other temporary protection visa holders are left in a "hopeless" position, fearing for the safety of their family members who remain stranded in Afghanistan under the Taliban rule. 

Among other restrictive living conditions in Australia, temporary protection visa holders are unable to sponsor their family members whose lives are at risk overseas. 

Hundreds of people are gathering in protest to support refugees in Australia who remain on temporary protection visas for several years.
Hundreds of people are gathering in protest to support refugees in Australia who remain on temporary protection visas for several years. Source: Anna Henderson/SBS News


It has left Mr Haidari concerned for the Hazara people in Afghanistan, an ethnic minority group who have long been persecuted by the Taliban and militant groups. 

"Given the crisis in Afghanistan, we don't know how long we have for families to survive ... we're running out of time, and people are hopeless," Mr Haidari said. 

The rally at Parliament House comes weeks after a during the Taliban's resurgence to power as "dishonourable". 

Spokesperson for the Refugee Advice and Casework Service, John Minns, said the government has a responsibility to provide permanent pathways for refugees and asylum seekers. 

"The Morrison government’s response continues to fall far behind the needs of the time and the standards set in past emergencies," Mr Minns said. 


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4 min read
Published 8 February 2022 at 4:14pm
By Rayane Tamer
Source: SBS News