JRS Australia urges Action for Afghanistan

28 November 2021

The situation in Afghanistan remains critical.

JRS Australia has accompanied many members of the Afghan diaspora in the last week and witnessed the pain reverberating within the community and the resilience and leadership in response.

JRS Australia stands alongside the diaspora, including refugees on temporary visas, many of whom still have family in deeply precarious situations in Afghanistan.

Around 5,100 refugees have lived on temporary visas in Australia for up to ten years. Despite living in limbo and effectively excluded from bringing family to Australia, they have worked, studied, and contributed significantly to Australian society in considerable ways, including volunteering on the frontlines of the COVID-19 response. In the current circumstances, it is clear that they will not be able to return safely to Afghanistan in the foreseeable future.

JRS Australia urges the Australian Government to grant these refugees permanent protection and swift access to family reunification.

JRS Australia also supports calls from Archbishop Coleridge, the President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, to provide at least 20,000 humanitarian places for people fleeing Afghanistan.

Australia has a long bipartisan tradition of committing to such intakes, most recently in 2015. The time for another commitment is now.

What you can do 

Sign the Afghan Australian Advocacy Network’s petition

Over 115,000 people have signed the petition including 307 organisations, and over 9165 academics, community leaders, human rights advocates, lawyers, doctors, writers, engineers, artists, students and civil society representatives.

Sign the Petition

Contact your Member of Parliament and urge them to take action

It has been profoundly inspiring to see the community’s response to the crisis. So many individuals, parish communities, schools, community groups, and faith leaders have contacted their MPs, signed petitions, and raised awareness in their local communities already. Your ongoing support is crucial.

“We’ve been busy contacting friends and family asking them to contact MPs. I hope that knowing how much community support there is can sustain the Afghan community. These are only small ways we’re helping. I can’t help but believe we’re at a turning point now. The sectors are all working so hard to mobilise more and more people to ask for change. Let’s hope and pray our government listens, and acts!”

 – Fay, community member

Find your MPs contact email and phone number here

Resources for those affected by or responding to the crisis in Afghanistan

JRS Australia stands in solidarity with people from Afghanistan. We will continue to support the diaspora to ensure that Australia does as much as possible to protect refugees, and other forcibly displaced people at this time. We also continue to provide practical and psycho-social support to people based in Australia, in particular Greater Metropolitan Sydney. 

Unfortunately, we cannot provide advice on how to obtain a visa to leave Afghanistan. JRS Australia is also unable to sponsor or propose any visa applications. In response, we have been providing information on how and where people can access legal, practical, and other forms of assistance. 

This is not an exhaustive list and does not constitute legal advice, however provides references to key avenues with which JRS Australia is familiar. 

If you are in Afghanistan, Iran, or Australia:

The Asia Pacific Network of Refugees (APNOR) has set up a helpline to connect you to information, referrals and emergency support items. The helpline is being staffed by volunteers speaking Dari and English and will provide links to:

  • Mental health counselling
  • Pro bono legal aid 
  • Emergency support items

Call 1800 855 707 from Afghanistan, Australia or Iran or email apnor.crisisline@gmail.com

If you are in Australia, and require psycho-social or mental health support:

The NSW Service for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of Torture and Trauma Survivors (STARTTS) provides counselling and community support services to people in NSW who have been affected by torture and trauma and are refugees, asylum seekers or from refugee-like backgrounds.

If you think you or someone you care about would benefit from this kind of support, you can contact STARTTS to make a referral. You can call (02) 9646 6800 and ask for the Intake Officer or complete this referral form and email it to stts-intakegeneral@health.nsw.gov.au 

Anyone can make a referral to STARTTS: service providers, doctors and other medical professionals, a family member or friend of the person or the person themselves.

If you are in Afghanistan or in Australia and seeking legal assistance:

The Refugee Advice and Casework Service (RACS) has released a factsheet for citizens of Afghanistan seeking asylum in Australia, people in Australia wishing to assist relatives and people in Afghanistan, and Australian citizens and permanent residents in Afghanistan.

Legal Aid NSW has prepared this factsheet for people applying under the humanitarian program. Current at 25 August 2021. 

For free legal help you can call (02) 8713 6725 or email us at refugeeservice@legalaid.nsw.gov.au

If you need an interpreter, call the Translating and Interpreting Service on 131 450 and ask them to call the Refugee Service.

The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre (ASRC) has published an info sheet that lists sources of free and other legal assistance, and other support. Current at 27 August 2021.

Refugee Legal has prepared factsheets on legal assistance for those impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan in English and Dari. They are also operating an Afghanistan Legal Hotline Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm. You can contact them on (03) 9413 0166.

If you are in Australia, are impacted by the crisis in Afghanistan and are seeking material support, this article in The Conversation lists organisations providing support by state. The article also includes suggestions of how to support the Afghan diaspora locally and internationally, both politically and materially.

Other international resources that may be helpful:

The UNHCR recently published a guide on relocation programs to the US, Canada, UK, France, Denmark, Germany, Belgium and Sweden.

Information on immigration options for US, Canada, Australia, UK, Pakistan, India and Philippines updated by volunteers for Afghan Diaspora for Equality and Progress

Information on leaving Afghanistan, with details for each nation state and the situation on the ground  Afghan Diaspora and International Lawyers.

The following is a summary of practical, legal, and campaign resources available to people in Australia seeking to respond to the situation.