Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has pledged AU$35 million in immediate humanitarian aid to Ukraine, a package that will include the provision of much-needed shelter, food, medical care and water to millions in need following Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified invasion.
The assistance, announced earlier this month, will be accompanied by $70 million in lethal military relief.
"Russia’s actions are a gross violation of international law,” Morrison said in a statement. “The cost of Russia’s aggression is being borne by innocent Ukrainians. This is a challenge the international community will meet, and Australia stands ready to provide further humanitarian assistance to support the people of Ukraine, including those fleeing to neighbouring countries.”
As part of Australia’s support to those fleeing, Morrison revealed the government is committed to fast-tracking temporary and visitor visa approvals, with upwards of 4,000 visas granted within the past four weeks. The majority of the new visa recipients are believed to be people with preexisting family links in Australia, according to The Age.
Ukrainians already in Australia holding soon-to-expire visas have likewise been given an automatic six-month extension.
Just spoke with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy. He thanked Australia for our military & humanitarian support & extensive sanctions. We discussed ways we could assist further. I praised Ukraine’s courage against Russia’s aggression & condemned Russia’s actions on behalf of us all. https://t.co/rHiqDa3AFKpic.twitter.com/qE5gO2eODu— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 5, 2022
According to the UNHCR, an estimated four million people will likely flee Ukraine in the coming months.
The Law Council of Australia, refugee agencies and non-profit organisations have welcomed the visa fast-tracking, but warn employment rights and access to the nation’s free health system will not be available for most temporary visa holders.
Refugee Council of Australia President Jasmina Bajraktarevic-Hayward has called for a major increase in humanitarian visas.
"We now have the lowest Refugee and Humanitarian Program in 45 years — all while serious conflicts are escalating in Afghanistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia and now Ukraine,” Bajraktarevic-Hayward said in a statement. “The number of humanitarian visas needs to increase dramatically, especially in light of the grave humanitarian situation that is unfolding in Ukraine.”
An array of financial sanctions and travel bans for close to 500 Russian citizens and entities have also been announced.
Among those impacted are Russian President Vladimir Putin, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Defence Minister Sergey Shoigu, as well as a further 300 members of the Russian Parliament. Russian banks and financial institutions have been penalised, as have Russian propagandists and media figures, including Putin’s press secretary.
An additional US$3 million has been pledged to NATO’s Trust Fund for Ukraine.
Australians wanting to donate funds to help Ukraine can do so here: