Australian Anglican Bishops call for special Afghan intake

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A national meeting of Anglican Bishops has added to pressure for the government to lift numbers of refugees, in light of the Afghan crisis.

After the fall of Kabul, initial statements by the government were encouraging that additional places for refugees would be granted, especially in light of Australia’s 20 year involvement in the Afghan conflict. But those statements have proved disappointing.

“Be assured of our prayers for you as you lead our nation,” the bishops said in their letter to the Prime Minister this week. “Our churches have been communicating with members of Parliament since August 2021 when news reached us of the fall of Kabul. Many wrote because they were encouraged by your Government’s initial engagement with the crisis, and others because of the level of compassion they witnessed. It was heartening to hear the proactive approach you had taken, facilitating 32 evacuation flights, and assisting over 4,000 people to escape from Afghanistan. We heard and appreciated your reiteration that the initial intake of 3,000 refugees from Afghanistan would be ‘a floor and not a ceiling’. 

“We hope, therefore, that you will understand our disappointment with what has followed. The Government’s announcement in January that more places would be provided for refugees has amounted to no additional refugee places and that there would only be 15,000 places allocated to people from Afghanistan within the existing refugee program.”

We recognise that the conflicts in Ukraine, Myanmar and Ethiopia are leading to a sharp rise in the number of vulnerable and displaced people seeking refuge.

More than 30 bishops, including the Archbishop of Sydney and all his bishops, signed the letter calling for a special intake of 20 thousand refugees above the existing quota.

“We have learned that the Department of Home Affairs has received applications from more than 145,000 individuals from Afghanistan. We feel that providing only 15,000 refugee places over 4 years from within the existing program is not an adequate response for people for whom we fought and with whom we laboured,” the letter said. “We recognise that the conflicts in Ukraine, Myanmar and Ethiopia are leading to a sharp rise in the number of vulnerable and displaced people seeking refuge.

“We believe this is a compelling reason to create a special intake of 20,000 additional refugees from Afghanistan and to include these additional places in your Government’s upcoming Federal Budget.”

 The letter reinforces the efforts of a delegation of church leaders, including the Bishop of North Sydney, Chris Edwards, who went to Canberra in February to lobby for more places.

“God has placed in us, a real compassion for those who are lost, those who are refugees, those who have been abandoned and because he has a heart for the lost, the more we align with him and his values and his will and his ways, our hearts go for those who are lost,” Bishop Edwards said. “The refugee really does represent the person who’s got no home, no place to go and so given that Jesus, at one stage, was a refugee, (then) we have a real heart and a passion for people who have been left without homes and left in dangerous places.”