Australia’s recently appointed adviser on Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban said the exodus from the country poses unprecedented resettlement challenges for people working with refugees.
Australia said it would offer sanctuary to 3,000 people fleeing Afghanistan by June 2022. A new advisory panel made up of Australian-Afghan community leaders, along with refugee and settlement experts, will help them chart a new life.
Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke said in a statement Monday the first priority would be safeguarding the “mental and physical wellbeing of the evacuees” who “have endured experiences of torture and trauma”. Many would also have the anguish of leaving relatives behind in Afghanistan.
The Advisory Panel on Australia’s Resettlement of Afghan Nationals will liaise with the government and will be in place for at least a year.
Its co-chair Paris Aristotle said the “residual trauma” of those fleeing Taliban-controlled Afghanistan will be “amongst the highest levels” of any refugees Australia has ever taken in.
“We have never had to resettle groups out of a crisis in the middle of a pandemic before. One of the critical issues for people in this context is they will have to go quarantine on arrival for 14-days. That will be unfamiliar to them on top of having escaped in very dangerous and chaotic circumstances,” Aristotle said.
Both Canada and Britain have said they would allow 20,000 Afghans to resettle. Australia will grant safe haven visas to 3,000 people, and the places will come from existing quotas of available humanitarian visas, and there will be no increase in overall numbers. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hopeful more will follow.
“We will do, we think, at least 3,000 this year. I actually believe it will be more based on, you know, the work that we are already doing. The challenge there will be how people actually get out of Afghanistan,” Morrison said.
The Australian military rescued more than 4,000 people from Kabul airport since the start of the U.S.-led evacuation mission, which is now over.
Between 2019 and 2020, Australia granted refugee status to just under 15,000 people. Most came from Iraq, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Myanmar.