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Reply from the Minister of Home Affairs re Afghan refugees

4 National Circuit Barton ACT 2600

PO Box 25 Belconnen ACT 2616 • Telephone: 02 6264 1111 •


Dear Mr ..........

Thank you for your correspondence to the Minister for Home Affairs, the Hon Karen Andrews MP, concerning the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the safety of Afghan nationals/Australia’s protection policy. The Minister appreciates the time you have taken to bring this matter to her attention and has asked that I reply on her behalf.

The Australian Government as a whole is focused on the rapidly deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan.

The Government announced on 18 August 2021 that, owing to the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, the cases of Afghan citizens will be prioritised for processing within Australia’s offshore Humanitarian Program. An initial 3,000 humanitarian places will be allocated to Afghan nationals within Australia’s annual program, which currently provides 13,750 places annually. The Government anticipates this initial allocation will increase further over the course of 2021-22. As the Prime Minister, the Hon Scott Morrison MP, stated on 19 August 2021, the Government will monitor grants within the current ceiling and will consider an increase to the Humanitarian Program above 13,750 if required.

Within the program allocation for Afghan citizens, priority will be given to persecuted minorities, women, children and those who have links to Australia. Afghanistan citizens who meet the requirements for a humanitarian visa and wish to seek Australia’s assistance are strongly encouraged to make an application. The Government will continue to work with Afghan community leaders in Australia to identify needs and requirements of their countrymen and women. The Government will also continue to utilise our close working relationship with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to identify those Afghans most in need.

2 It is Government policy that no Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire. Afghan citizens currently in Australia on temporary visas will be supported by the Government. Individuals who wish to seek Australia’s protection, and are found to engage Australia’s non-refoulement obligations, may be granted protection provided they are also able to fulfil the relevant visa criteria, which includes the health, character and security requirements that apply to all Australian visas. However, each case is assessed on its individual merits, with the safety in particular countries being a factor of consideration. Afghan citizens who have applied for a protection visa in Australia are a processing priority.

The Government recognises the importance of family reunion for refugees and humanitarian entrants. A key aim of Australia’s Humanitarian Program is to reunite refugees and people who are in refugee-like situations overseas with their family in

Australia through ‘split family’ provisions and the Special Humanitarian Program.

Immediate family of people who have been resettled under the Humanitarian Program are given highest priority in processing.

Temporary protection visa holders are not eligible to propose relatives through the Humanitarian Program. This is in line with the Government’s Operation Sovereign Borders policy that no one who comes to Australia illegally by boat will settle here – established to safeguard vulnerable people from exploitation by people smugglers, prevent the loss of life at sea, and ensure the integrity of Australia’s borders. These settings have successfully stemmed the flow of people smuggling ventures to Australia and saved countless lives at sea.

The Government values your commitment to supporting durable migration outcomes for vulnerable persons in need and advocating the rights of refugees and asylum seekers.

Thank you for bringing your concerns to the Minister’s attention.

Yours sincerely


Humanitarian Contracts Management Section

Humanitarian and Child Wellbeing Policy and Capability Branch

17 September 2021


Letter to Mr Albanese


Dear. Albanese,

Please find enclosed an open letter, addressed to you, and signed by 822 people, which calls on the Labor Party to take a clear and principled asylum policy to the next federal election. The letter states:

“Dear Mr. Albanese,

As the Labor Party reviews its policy platform in preparation for the federal election, we, the undersigned, urge the Party to adopt a principled and compassionate asylum policy which is consistent with our international obligations. At a minimum, we urge the Party to commit to:

·      Bringing all remaining refugees from Nauru and PNG to Australia for resettlement here or in other safe countries, including New Zealand.

·      Urgently reviewing and processing all outstanding asylum claims.

·      Releasing all remaining refugees and asylum seekers from APODs and other mainland detention centres, except where in individual cases there are overriding security issues.

·      Issuing all genuine refugees in Australia with Permanent Protection Visas.

A clear and principled asylum policy, articulated boldly, would attract significant community support.”

We urge the Labor Party to commit to taking action to end the demonising of asylum seekers and refugees, and to resist the pressure to use the issue of asylum as a political tool. It is surely time to end the decades-long ill-treatment of asylum seekers, and to focus instead on both our international obligations and on our better instincts of compassion and humanity towards those in need of our protection.

We look forward to a positive response from the Labor Party.

Yours sincerely,


Bellingen and Nambucca District Rural Australians for Refugees

Valla Beach

NSW 2448

10th September, 2021


Reply from Senator Kenneally re the Murugappan family


From: Keneally, Kristina (Senator) <>

Sent: Friday, September 10, 

Subject: Thank you for emailing me about the Biloela family


Good morning


Thank you for contacting me regarding the ‘Biloela family’ - Priya, Nades and their two Australian-born daughters, Kopika and Tharunicaa Murugappan. 


I apologise for the time it has taken me to get back to you.


As you would be aware, for a long time I have been advocating that the Murugappan family be allowed to go home to Biloela, a town that loves them and wants them back.  In fact, this has been Labor’s position for some time.


Labor Leader Anthony Albanese has asked questions in the House of Representatives about the family’s circumstances and urged the Morrison Government to allow them to return to Biloela. 


I was very fortunate to travel to Christmas Island earlier this year to meet this lovely family. But, I was saddened to see effect of detention on Kopika and Tharunicaa.  


These two Australian-born children have now spent most of their lives living in detention, all while Mr Morrison has been claiming that he “got all children out of detention here in Australia” – a claim that is simply untrue.  


Labor welcomes the recent decision from Minister for Immigration, Alex Hawke, to personally intervene in the family’s case, granting bridging visas for Nades, Priya and Kopika.  


Importantly, the Minister’s decision means Nades, Priya and Kopika are no longer in detention and are free to work, access services and support, and travel without significant restriction.   


It is disappointing that the Minister declined to use his personal discretionary power to grant a bridging visa to Tharunicaa. This little 4-year-old girl, born in Australia, remains in immigration detention in the community.   


While it is essential that Tharni continues to receive the medical treatment she needs following her serious illnesses, including pneumonia and sepsis, we understand the family is hopeful the government will allow her to access this treatment in Queensland.   We urge the Minister to take into account the advice of Tharni’s doctors. 


Many Australians will be concerned that the Minister has only granted the three family members a three-month bridging visa, and we share those concerns.  We are hopeful that the Minister has set a three-month period with a view to allow him the time required to consider the materials before him and make a decision to return the family to their home in Biloela.  


There is now considerable support from both sides of politics for the release of this family – including former Prime Minister Tony Abbott, former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, broadcaster Alan Jones, and Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce.  


As it has been the case all along, Mr Morrison and Ministers Andrews and Hawke can grant the Biloela family permanent protection and bring them home to Queensland with a stroke of a pen.   Immigration ministers - including Ministers Dutton and Hawke - have made thousands of discretionary decisions each year to grant visas in circumstances like these, including on compassionate grounds. 


It is past time for the Morrison Government to bring this sorry saga to an end and allow the family to come home to Biloela.  


It is also time to stop the waste of taxpayer dollars:  The Morrison Government has spent at least $50 million of taxpayer funds in detaining and attempting to deport the family. 


We encourage you to show your support for the Murugappan family by signing Labor’s petition to bring them home to Biloela. 


The integrity of Australia’s immigration system is an important matter, but the system also allows compassion and support for families and children in our community. 


It is time for Priya, Nades, Kopika and Tharunicaa to return home to the Queensland community that they love, and that loves them in return.  


Thank you taking the time to contact me about this issue.  



Sign Labor’s petition to bring them home to Biloela. 


Kristina Keneally
Deputy Labor Leader in the Senate
Shadow Minister for Home Affairs
Shadow Minister for Immigration and Citizenship
Senator for New South Wales


RAR National Newsletter: Afghanistan, Workshops, Kristina Kenneally & Sieve-X





5 September 2021
Hello to all RAR Members and Supporters – Welcome to this RAR Update
“Afghanistan has become a giant prison with dinosaurs ruling it” – Muzafar Ali.
The project of “regime change” in Afghanistan has collapsed like a house of cards. In a few days in August, the Taliban advanced from mountainous strongholds to the seats of government.
We shouldn’t forget the powers of the Afghan people. Already demonstrations by women have been demanding the continuation of girls’ education.
Nonetheless, the Taliban will target women, the 6-million strong Hazara ethnic community, Afghan people who have worked with Coalition forces and with the Afghan Government, journalists, musicians and others. We want to get as many as we can visas for those who need to leave as refugees, although their leaving is going to be much more difficult now.
Also, there are thousands of Afghan refugees living in Australia on temporary visas. Clearly they cannot return to Afghanistan.
RAR has joined the calls – in multiple petitions and open letters, including those initiated by the Refugee Council (signed by 300-plus organisations) and by Action For Afghanistan (see and use the hashtag #ActionForAfghanistan) – for permanent visas for Afghan refugees in Australia or detained offshore, a one-off humanitarian intake of people from Afghanistan of 20,000 in addition to the current intake, and other measures to support Afghan refugees.
Canada and the UK have offered a further 20,000 refugee visas. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has only announced 3,000 places within the government’s current intake of 13,750.
We need to act now. Among the resources available is the RAR website’s letter writing kit. Here is national committee member Paul Dalzell talking about phoning MPs:
My commitment to the cause of refugees has grown over the years. Each step along the way has meant for me overcoming my own fear and sense of not being worthy. All along the way I have been challenged to ‘feel the fear and do it any way’ by remembering that the fear of those in detention or in danger of losing their lives is nowhere near mine. … I have said ‘yes’ to sponsoring refugee families from Afghanistan. It was the challenge of my own anger at the obfuscation of the politicians on the radio that got me over my fear of telephoning. Now I know the ropes. Phone the office, say my piece politely but  firmly, with a request for action. This kind of action makes me feel that what I can do, I am doing.


We also called for member groups to step up to sponsor Afghan citizens who are under immediate threat in the fall of Afghanistan to the Taliban.  We have had an amazing response.
Led by the (unstoppable!) Marie Sellstrom, RAR groups and individuals have submitted over 40 visa applications in the past week. All but 2 are for families. Thanks indeed to the people who have worked so hard to get these visas completed and loaded on the Government website (a challenge in itself).
The first eleven of the people we sponsored arrived in Adelaide recently and are in quarantine there. They are exhausted but relieved to be in Australia. Marie has been in touch with Muzafar Ali (many of you will know him from Cisarua Learning and The Staging Post) and our friends at Circle of Friends in Adelaide.  They are looking after their immediate needs.
We have worked closely with Greens Senators, Janet Rice and Nick McKim in particular, and staff from their offices.  Jesse Northfield, Senator Kenneally’s deputy Chief of Staff, has been involved as well, liaising with the Department of Home Affairs / Immigration.  We don’t have much information about the visa status of those who have arrived, but the politicians are trying to find this out.  We may need to resubmit visa applications before long.
RAR groups are working with Afghan refugees in their communities to identify family members under threat.  We are passing that information onto the politicians for them to advocate for visas. 
Many groups have asked how they can give financial support to those who do make it here.  We don’t have much information yet.  People have agreed to sponsor families without any indication of what this will cost them, but have done so confident that RAR groups and supporters will step up and help out when we know what costs are involved.
RAR will take donations that people may want to give, to cover costs associated with sponsorship and settling Afghan refugees over the coming months. Our bank account details are:  Rural Australians for Refugees Inc.;  BSB 633 000;  account number: 160 958 096; reference: Afghan sponsorship.  Note: donations through RAR are not tax-deductible. You should also send us an email at - that will save us wondering about some deposits!
We work closely with Circle of Friends in Adelaide.  They are also sponsoring many people from Afghanistan and donations to them are tax-deductible. Bank details are: BSB 633 000; account number: 150 721 298; reference:  Circle 127 + your surname. They also have a form on their website (they will need your email address for a receipt).
Individual RAR groups are also supporting community efforts: for example Swan Hill RAR is involved in efforts to host up to 30 Afghan refugees. $3500 is needed for expenses incurred in the application process for each emergency visa for family members of some of the hundreds of male Hazara refugees who, despite having lived and worked in the district from as early as 2001, hold temporary visas.
These families – wives and children - are in extreme danger and in desperate need of our compassion and our support. As partners and fathers, the men involved are stressed.
The Swan Hill Community Issues (SHUCCI, involving the Uniting Church) Group have been supporting over the year with information, services and volunteer assistance, which has built trust. Now funds are being raised to subsidise or fully pay the visa application expenses, including consultation with lawyers and migration agents, gathering and accurately translating information. There would also be costs for travel, quarantine and support once they are here.
The situation in Afghanistan is uncertain.  If these family members have a visa to enter Australia they are ready to travel as soon as the opportunity arises, which is important. Please help us get these visas – visit
RAR National Matters: Annual General Meeting  and Take Stock Survey and Workshops

The 2021 RAR Annual General Meeting will be on Saturday, 18 September, at 2pm, on Zoom. It will feature the annual report and financial statements, and we are also pursuing a guest speaker on the Afghanistan refugee situation – we hope to have an agenda out within a week.
Member groups should be organising to choose their delegate (one per member), although other people in each group can also attend. If necessary a group can choose a proxy instead. Groups can also put motions to the meeting.
Associates of RAR (supporters who can’t join a RAR group) are also welcome to attend.
Members got a separate email providing the Zoom details and the delegate and proxy nomination forms and motion form. Any queries about that, and any of our associates interested in coming, should email this address ( or call Jonathan (national secretary) on 0437 790 306 for the information you need (Zoom details, etc).
Meanwhile we are running our Take Stock project to try to understand how we can get the best value from our actions. The RAR National Committee has organised activities over the next three months for our members, and others we work with, to say what your ideas and views are about how we can work most effectively in the years ahead.
We will start with an online survey.  We would like as many people as possible to complete this short survey.  Our member groups, members of your groups, our supporters, other refugee support and advocacy groups, refugees and people seeking asylum who we have connected with in some way.  The survey is anonymous.  We would like you to circulate it as widely as you can and encourage your members and supporters to complete it.
Here is the link: It is open until 30 September.
We will also have intensive discussions through workshops supported by a skilled facilitator, with our newly-elected National Committee (the other job of the AGM), with key stakeholders, such as refugees (please see the recent email your group might have received about this) and our members. For the last, we are having two Zoom sessions, for which people can register to take part in more in-depth discussion, with the facilitator, about RAR and its future directions.  The dates for these are: Tuesday 7 September, from 6pm – 7.30pm and Wednesday 8 September from 9am – 10.30am.  There are eight places for each session so if you would like to attend, please email to register.
SIEV-X: 20th Anniversary Commemoration

On 19 October 2001, 353 asylum seekers drowned when the Indonesia fishing boat, which had been dubbed by Australian authorities the SIEV-X (Suspected Illegal Entry Vessel-X), sank en route to Australia. We will honour them, to remember them even though we never got to meet.
Not long after the tragedy, artist Kate Durham painted portraits of those who drowned. This commemoration will dwell on these portraits. Please join us for this solemn event on:
Tuesday Oct 19, 2021, 7pm (EST - Sydney)
Speakers: Kate Durham, artist; Julian Burnside, QC; Vivenne Glance and Ismail Afeif (poets in WA); People from Canberra SIEV-X memorial
Please register to attend at and then you will receive a confirmation email with a zoom link.
Kristina Kenneally

Senator Kristina Kenneally, Labor’s shadow minister for home affairs, has asked to meet with RAR members through a national Zoom forum. She explained she is still trying to meet with as many people as possible during the lockdowns
We’ve agreed, with the date and time being Monday 27 September, 6.30pm-7.30pm. Kristina will present for up to 20 mins, leaving most of the time for Q&A.
Register for this by emailing Louise at She will send you a Zoom link. If possible, submit questions in advance to the same email, with further questions to come during the session.
Jonathan Strauss
National Secretary Rural Australians for Refugees Australia
Rural Australians for Refugees on Twitter and Facebook.
RAR is a member of the Australian Refugee Action Network






Our mailing address is:


Dear Senator Keneally, I have watched the TV footage of the chaos in Kabul

Please see my letter below of some days ago to Senator Keneally. I thought that I would point out to her, a committed Catholic, that various Catholic bodies are calling for a significant increase in our humanitarian visas to support the people fleeing the Taliban. I have not heard the Labor opposition calling for a big increase, but I might have missed it.

What a tragedy. Sadly, we never seem to learn from our serious imperial mistakes, and keep on repeating them. But the  weapons manufacturers need these constant wars to support their bottom line.



Sent: Wednesday, August 25, 2021 3:13 PM
To: '' <>
Subject: Afghanistan

Dear Senator Keneally,

Like everyone else, I have watched the TV footage of the chaos in Kabul with deep dismay. The spectacle of seeing thousands of people fleeing for their lives is truly shocking.

As one of the countries which has had a military presence in the country for the past twenty years, we  surely have a moral responsibility to help those who now are begging for our assistance. In previous crises, the Australian government has shown compassion and generosity in making additional humanitarian places available to refugees from Vietnam and Syria. It was, therefore, deeply disappointing to hear the Prime Minister tell the nation that we would accept just 3,000 refugees from Afghanistan, and that these places would come out of our already much-reduced humanitarian intake. This is an utterly inadequate response.

Afghanistan is now in turmoil, and Kabul is not a safe place, particularly for girls and women nor for the thousands of Afghans who, for the past two decades, have assisted the coalition forces in a range of activities. There should be no question of ever sending any of the several thousand Afghans currently living in Australia on TPVs back to Afghanistan against their will.

Archbishop Mark Coleridge, on behalf of the Australian Catholic Bishop Conference, is urging the government to provide at least 20,000 humanitarian places for Afghan refugees. The Jesuit Refugee Service is urging the government to grant permanent protection to the 5,100 Afghan refugees living in Australia on TPVs. In the current emergency, these seem to me to be utterly reasonable proposals, which I do hope that the Labor opposition will support.

I therefore urge you and the Labor party to urgently to press the government to:

  • ensure the safety of refugees from Afghanistan in Australia by providing them with permanent protection visas so that they can remain here safely.
  • increase the humanitarian visa quota with a generous one-off intake for the people in Afghanistan in the most danger.
  • provide a pathway for refugees from Afghanistan to apply to reunite with their families in Australia.

This is NOT the time to be warning darkly about people smugglers or people drowning at sea. The government solved that problem seven years ago, and it’s time to move on.

I  would very much like your assurance that the Labor party will press the government to do much more than it is currently undertaking to do.

Yours sincerely,


Valla Beach