Wollondilly MP absent from joint call for increased Afghan refugee intake

Humanitarian crisis: Thousands of Afghanistan residents have been forced to flee their home since the Taliban took over in recent months. Picture: AAP
Humanitarian crisis: Thousands of Afghanistan residents have been forced to flee their home since the Taliban took over in recent months. Picture: AAP

More than 50 members of parliament across all political lines have signed a statement calling for greater intake of refugees from Afghanistan - but Wollondilly MP Nathaniel Smith is not among them.

A statement signed by 57 NSW MPs and MLCs urged the Federal Government to allow more Afghan refugees into Australia in light of the perilous situation many Afghans now find themselves following the Taliban's swift rise to power following the withdrawal of US troops in the Middle Eastern nation.

"Of equal importance, the human rights of women and girls is under direct threat, with increasing evidence that they face exclusion from education and employment, sexual slavery, violence and death at the hands of the Taliban," the statement read.

"There is an urgent need to ensure a co-ordinated international response both for those at great risk who remain within Afghanistan, alongside those who have fled in the face of the Taliban and are now displaced.

"Many Afghanis within Australia, whose families remained behind, are desperate to be reunited with loved ones who now face great risks in their current situation.

"Whilst Australia's announcement of a willingness to receive 3000 Afghan refugee is welcome, it falls well short of the commitments made by other coalition partners in Afghanistan.

"Canada and Britain, for instance, have each committed to resettle 20,000 refugees over the coming years. We call on the Federal Government to follow the example of these nations and increase our refugee intake, to provide a future to those fleeing the perils of a Taliban controlled Afghanistan and to honour the legacy of those brave Australian ADF personnel, and the Afghani allies, who fought in Australia's longest conflict, the Afghan War."

The Advertiser asked Mr Smith's office why he did not sign his name to the statement, and received the following response: "The COVID outbreak has created unique challenges in the Wollondilly electorate... Mr Smith has been focused on providing support and advice to local businesses and individuals requiring assistance during this difficult time. The issues contained in the Joint Statement are important, but complicated. Importantly, it is the responsibility of the Federal Government. Mr Smith would prefer to use his time effectively giving assistance to his constituents at this time."

Campbelltown MP Greg Warren, who was a signatory, said "there are a number of Afghan-Australians in Campbelltown who approached me with concerns about fellow Afghan-Australians who were stuck abroad. Ultimately I wanted to see the federal government do everything in its power to ensure [their] safe passage home."