HUNDREDS of Adelaideans have demanded the federal government show compassion for Afghanistan.
Members of Adelaide’s sizeable Afghan community – who fear for their families and country in the wake of the Taliban takeover – organised a candlelight vigil Saturday night in Victoria Square.
Among the attendees were Premier Steven Marshall and Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas, who heard speakers urge the commonwealth to evacuate more people from fallen Kabul and to resettle more refugees in Australia.
SA Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission member Hussain Razaiat warned the federal government not to disappoint Afghans and the Australians who stand with them.
“As proud citizens of Australia, we are expecting the Australian government not to let Afghan people down and be persecuted again and again by the Taliban,” Mr Razaiat said.
Mr Marshall expressed his horror at the despair and desperation palpable at the moment in Afghanistan and offered SA’s help in the federal effort to repatriate citizens and residents.
“South Australia stands shoulder to shoulder in solidarity with all those affected by the Afghan conflict,” Mr Marshall said.
“We will do everything we can to support them during this incredibly challenging time.”
Mr Malinauskas called on the federal government to live up to the generosity and hospitality Australia showed by welcoming displaced people after World War II, the Vietnam War and the Tiananmen Square protests.
“This is another opportunity for this country to remain true to those extraordinary values and open our hearts to the people of Afghanistan,” Mr Malinauskas said.
“Not just the ones who are here now, but hopefully many more to come in the future.”
One young Afghan woman read a powerful poem in which she decried the deep wound of war carried across the generations but also expressed hope for the future.
“There will come a day in which we will rebuild and take what belongs to us and proudly raise the black, red and green flag,” she said.
“It may not be now – it may take a decade – but we will do everything in our power to bring the flag back home.
“But until then, stay strong, stay strong.”
Justice for Refugees SA (J4RSA) was one of the groups who took part in the vigil.
Chair Rev Sandy Boyce expressed her group’s concern for those trapped in Afghanistan.
“These people quite rightly fear for their lives and safety under the Taliban,” she said.
Rev Boyce also urged Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to do more for Afghans already here.
She called for the freeing of the 53 Afghan asylum seekers currently in immigration detention, and for extending permanent protection to the more than 4,200 Afghan holders of temporary protection visas (TPVs).
“Afghan refugees currently in Australia deserve much more in the way of certainty, security and support,” she said.
“TPVs offer none of these for refugees claiming protection under Australia’s treaty obligations.”
J4RSA works closely with local Afghans, providing them with material and moral support.
Rev Boyce raised the alarm on their behalf.
“Quite understandably, community leaders say they are terrified of being sent back,” she said.
“Let us not kid ourselves by pretending the situation in Afghanistan is going to change anytime soon.”
J4RSA is throwing its weight behind an Asylum Seekers Centre petition to local members of parliament, Minister for Home Affairs Karen Andrews and Prime Minister Scott Morrison.
The petition calls for offering humanitarian visas to people in Afghanistan in imminent danger, among other demands.
“Now is the time to act with generosity,” J4RSA said.
“We know too much to turn our backs on people in desperate need.”