As the media floods with stories and images of people attempting to flee Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover, the Australian government’s refugee policy is once again highlighting how little those who run our society value ordinary people.
Now that the US-led occupation is over, leaving Afghanistan devastated and the Taliban returned to power, the Liberal government has offered a paltry 3,000 visas to Afghan refugees. Immigration Minister Alex Hawke claims that this is a continuation of Australia’s “generous humanitarian and resettlement program”.
What generosity is Hawke referring to? Perhaps the treatment of more than 4,200 Afghan refugees already in Australia who have been left in limbo on temporary protection visas, denied basic rights and never knowing when the government might deport them? Maybe Hawke is talking about the ongoing imprisonment of 53 Afghans in Australia’s refugee concentration camps, or the thousands trapped in Indonesia who the government refuses to let into this country?
The numbers pale in comparison to the more than 2.7 million refugees created by the war in Afghanistan. If there were any sense of generosity in the ranks of the government, Australia—which participated from beginning to end in the invasion and occupation—would provide far greater numbers with permanent protection, with the same rights as any citizen.
There is widespread support for those trying to escape Afghanistan. More than 100,000 people have signed an open letter calling for an increase in the number of Afghan refugees accepted into Australia, and for them to be granted permanent visas. But we also need more than appeals to Australia’s “moral duty”; we need a movement that is willing to fight the politicians who destroy entire nations on the one hand, and on the other deny help to those who manage to escape.
Our rulers are happy to wage imperialist wars in pursuit of economic or political advantages over their rivals, no matter how many ordinary people get chewed up in the process. When those people come seeking refuge, they are faced with hostile politicians who view them, at best, as useful pawns in strengthening a xenophobic, nationalist agenda.
We should demand permanent protection for those fleeing Afghanistan today, as well as every single refugee who wants to come to Australia. We also have to see this as part of a wider fight against all the barbarities of capitalism—against war, against racism and nationalism, against a ruling class that would sacrifice any of us if that served its interests.