An Afghan woman holding her child begs on a snow-covered pavement in Kabul An Afghan woman holding her child begs on a snow-covered pavement in Kabul 

Australian Bishops urge government to welcome more Afghan refugees

Catholic Bishops in Australia join other faith-based and community groups to advocate for a generous response from the Australian government to welcome Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime, saying that current refugee commitments are not enough.

By Lisa Zengarini

Catholic Bishops and organizations in Australia are joining faith-based and community groups in urging political leaders to scale up efforts to support refugees from Afghanistan, including providing Afghans who are already in Australia with pathways to permanency and the opportunity to reunite with their families.

20,000 additional places needed

The Australian Government this week announced some 15,000 places over four years for Afghans fleeing the Taliban regime through existing Humanitarian and Family Visa programs. However, according to the Catholic Alliance for People Seeking Asylum (CAPSA), an association co-convened by Jesuit Social Services and Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) Australia,  this is an inadequate response and at least 20,000 additional places should be allocated.

Making a tangible difference

“The announcement by the Federal Government disguises the fact that these 15,000 people will be included within Australia’s existing annual humanitarian intake of 13,750. This is a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed to make a tangible difference to the lives of those fleeing Afghanistan in search of safety”, said Jesuit Social Services Acting Chief Executive, Sally Parnell. 

“The Australian Government has an opportunity to demonstrate true leadership by providing safety and security to those people already in Australia as a priority, and supporting their families, in addition to the urgent humanitarian response needed to support those fleeing the current crisis in Afghanistan”, she added.

Scaling up  practical compassion

The request is supported by the Australian Bishops’ Conference (ACBC). “The scale of the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan requires the urgent creation of additional places in Australia’s humanitarian intake,” said Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, chair of the Bishops Commission for Social Justice, Mission and Service. “We need to scale up our practical compassion, not simply adjust priorities within existing plans”, the prelate stressed.

9 million Afghans forced to flee

Afghans make up one of the largest refugee populations worldwide. Though fighting has subsided since the United States withdrew its troops from the country and the subsequent Taliban takeover in August 2021, fear, violence and deprivation continue to force  Afghans to seek safety and asylum across the border, particularly in neighbouring Iran and Pakistan.

More than 2.2 million registered refugees and another 4 million Afghans with different statuses have fled abroad.  Another 3.5 million people are internally displaced.


Overall, some 9 million Afghans have been forced to flee their homes, while the country is now on the brink of famine, making Afghanistan the world’s largest humanitarian crisis at present. More than twenty million Afghans (half the population) suffer from hunger resulting from the worst drought of the last few decades and since the Taliban takeover the economy is plunging. The UN has warned recently of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan. 

28 January 2022, 13:07