Online rally calls for more Afghan refugees and permanent visas

September 1, 2021
Brisbane rally for Afghan refugees on August 23. Photo: Alex Bainbridge

More than 300 people participated in an online rally on August 29 to demand that the Australian government accept more Afghan refugees and grant permanent visas for refugees living here. The zoom rally was organised by a coalition of refugee groups.

Afghan refugee Akram said living in the community on short-term visas was like “living in limbo”. He said they have not seen their families for nine or 10 years and the government is treating them “like hostages” to deter people smugglers.

He urged people to be compassionate, and recognise that many contribute by working and paying taxes.

Greens leader Adam Bandt said that the government’s plan to bring 3000 Afghan refugees to Australia is insufficient and suggested taking 20,000. "Those Afghan refugees already here should be given permanent residency," he said.

Bandt condemned the hypocrisy of MPs who sent troops to Afghanistan — contributing to the “dire situation” — but refuse to accept refugees fleeing from it.

Labor MP Andrew Giles said his party “rejects the concept of temporary protection”. He agreed that the refugee intake should be increased.

Zahra Moshtagh, a journalist reporting from the Iran/Afghanistan border, said refugees are climbing over a 3.5 metre high wall to get into Iran, where the government does not want to accept them. She called on the rich countries to help.

Kasra Mirabi, a refugee detained on Manus Island between 2013 and 2019, and brought to Australia for medical treatment, described the effects of detention. He became sick, mentally and physically, but has still not received proper treatment, and continues to suffer anxiety, depression and insomnia. Mirabi was released from detention last week, but he reminded the forum that many refugees are still in detention in Nauru, Papua New Guinea and Australia.

Aran Mylvaganam from the Tamil Refugee Council said those on temporary visas must be given permanent residency. He said 15,000 people have no work rights, while others who do have work rights have lost their jobs and live in poverty. This precarious situation can lead to people committing suicide.

Mylvaganam said that while Labor now says it wants to abolish temporary protection visas, it has also sided with the government to undermine refugees’ rights. Cruelty towards refugees is “bipartisan”, he said.

Several other refugees, as well as Chris Breen from the Refugee Action Collective, also spoke.

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