Sydney, Australia, Nov 10 (EFE).- Australia announced on Thursday that it has prioritized the processing of humanitarian visas for Myanmar nationals in response to the crisis triggered by a military coup in the Asian country in February 2021.
“Myanmar nationals currently residing in Australia who have arrived with a valid visa will have their application for protection prioritized by the Department of Home Affairs, reducing waiting times and providing certainty to those in need,” Australia’s Immigration Minister Andrew Giles said in a statement.
Giles added that Myanmar nationals wishing to enter Australia will also be able to apply for other types of visas, depending on their circumstances.
“Overseas, Home Affairs officers continue to work closely with the UNHCR (UN Refugee Agency) in Bangkok, as well as other governments, to coordinate response efforts to the crisis in Myanmar,” he said.
Australia, which has not imposed sanctions against the Myanmar military, has come in for criticism in recent weeks after it became known that its police force was continuing to engage in anti-drug operations with the Myanmar police, who together with soldiers have brutally cracked down on post-coup dissent.
Moreover, leaked bank documents last week revealed that ANZ Bank – one of the largest in Australia -, has continued dealings with Innwa Bank – owned by a Myanmar military conglomerate sanctioned by the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom.
During a visit to Thailand last week, Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong said that Canberra was studying measures against the Myanmar military regime.
On Thursday, Wong announced a humanitarian aid package of AU$ 135 million ($86.7 million) for the delivery of food, water and shelter through partner organizations in Myanmar and Bangladesh.
“Since the military coup in February 2021, the number of people in humanitarian need in Myanmar has surged from 1 million to an estimated 14.4 million,” Wong said in a statement.
The military coup on Feb.1, 2021 plunged Myanmar into a deep political, social and economic crisis, and unleashed a spiral of violence with the formation of new civilian militias that have exacerbated the guerrilla war the country has experienced for decades.
At least 2,428 civilians have been killed by authorities since the coup and almost 13,000 people have been placed under arbitrary detention, including Australian economist Sean Turnell, according to Myanmar nonprofit Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. EFE