25 August, 2021

The Hon. J.S. LEE (15:30): I rise today with a heavy heart to speak about the frightening and devastating tragedy in Afghanistan as the Taliban take control of the country, and the dangerous situation currently unfolding over there. We have all watched the images and reports coming out of Kabul and Afghanistan with horror and anguish, and we can only imagine how incredibly awful and difficult it is for Afghan and Hazara communities here in South Australia, who are all concerned for the safety and wellbeing of loved ones still in Afghanistan.

Last week the Premier of South Australia, the Hon. Steven Marshall, met with leaders from the South Australian Afghan community and provided his assurance that the government of South Australia is standing shoulder to shoulder with the Afghan community, ready to offer all possible assistance to local Afghan and Hazara communities. The Premier yesterday reaffirmed his commitment, in his ministerial statement, that our state government stands ready to support the federal government's humanitarian, evacuation and repatriation program to provide safe settlement for any Afghan refugees here in South Australia.

On Saturday 21 August 2021 the South Australian Afghan community held a candlelight vigil in Victoria square to come together as a community to reflect on the situation and support each other in this time of need. It was heartening to see community-minded individuals and groups from all walks of life, including the Premier and Tim Whetstone MP, member for Chaffey, join the community at the vigil to demonstrate their solidarity and strong support for the Afghan community. Sadly, due to the passing of my brother last week I was unable to attend the candlelight vigil, but I was there in my heart and spirit.

The South Australian Multicultural and Ethnic Affairs Commission was very well represented, including by its Chair, Adriana Christopoulos, along with other SAMEAC members. In particular, I wish to acknowledge Mr Hussain Razaiat, who arrived as an asylum seeker from Afghanistan and who is now the president of the Afghan United Association of South Australia and also a member of SAMEAC. I thank him for his compassionate leadership in organising the vigil along with other community leaders during this difficult time.

We are grateful for all the passionate community leaders, members and volunteers from the Afghan community for their tireless efforts and contributions in supporting the community.

Honourable members would have seen in today's paper the heartening news that 100 Afghan refugees touched down in Adelaide in the early hours of this morning on an emergency evacuation flight from Kabul. This flight has been one of the many dangerous rescue missions that have been conducted by the Australian Defence Force, working around the clock in coordination with our allies and partners on the ground, to evacuate Australians, permanent residents, family members and visa holders, including former locally-engaged Afghan employees.

Along with the recognition of the great work by Mr Hussain Razaiat, I would like to acknowledge Eugenia Tsoulis, CEO of AMRC, also a SAMEAC member, for working closely with the Afghan community with the support of, and discussion and consultation with, local government in Murray Bridge, Mount Gambier and Naracoorte. With volunteer support from the Afghan United Association, AMRC are providing increased settlement services in Adelaide, Bordertown and Naracoorte.

I would also like to acknowledge Ahmed Zreika, another SAMEAC member, who is the president of the Islamic Society. Through their staff and volunteers they are also helping new arrivals and families to receive support at this incredibly challenging time. I would like to commend Multicultural Youth SA for making available a pool of social workers who are willing to be on call after hours to assist Afghan refugees in quarantine with culturally safe foods, prayer rugs and in-language resources translated into Dari, Farsi and Pashto.

The situation in Afghanistan is unpredictable, dangerous and sadly worsening as the deadline for the withdrawal of US troops approaches on 31 August. In answer to the question posed earlier by the Hon. John Darley to the Minister for Human Services, the Hon. Michelle Lensink, I would like to confirm that there is a multi-agency approach by the government, working with the federal government, in relation to settlement issues of refugees from Afghanistan. We stand in solidarity and with prayers in support of the community.