A pier that could be used to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip
The United States is setting up a port off Gaza so more humanitarian aid can flow through. Image by AP PHOTO
  • politics

Australia under pressure over Palestinian visas and aid

March 14, 2024

The US has asked Australia to help bring more humanitarian aid to Gaza, as Palestinians fleeing the war have had their Australian visas cancelled.

Despairing Palestinians have had their visas cancelled while en route to Australia this week.

As concern mounts in the international community over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza, the US is setting up a port at the besieged strip to relieve civilians of dwindling supplies.

A request has been made to partner nations, including Australia, for help setting up the port while further aid to flow through would be welcomed, AAP understands.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said the decision to cancel visas was made upon advice about individuals.

“This has been a difficult situation for people,” he told reporters in Sydney.

“I understand that it’s a very difficult circumstance for families.”

Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler
 Save the Children Australia CEO Mat Tinkler says Australia’s actions need to match its words. Image by Con Chronis/AAP PHOTOS 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said his nation was working with Israel to establish the aid corridor.

The corridor would distribute up to two million meals a day on top of medicine, water and other supplies.

Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Canada are also supporting the effort.

Save the Children has called on the Australian government to reinstate suspended funding to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Canada, Sweden and the European Commission have reinstated funding.

Save the Children Australia chief executive Mat Tinkler said it had been almost two weeks since the government promised additional urgent support for Gaza.

“With more and more children dying in Gaza every day, we simply do not have the luxury of time,” he said. 

“The government has consistently expressed concern and alarm over the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and yet its contribution to the humanitarian response has failed to adequately reflect the concern in those statements.”

Federal Minister for Foreign Affairs Penny Wong
 Penny Wong says the UNRWA is the only organisation able to provide the necessary level of support. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS 

Funding was paused in January alongside partner nations after Israel alleged a number of UNRWA staff members had taken part in Hamas’ October 7 attack against it. 

The UN agency fired several employees following the accusations. 

Australia has flagged waiting for the result of investigations into the allegations and called on Israel to assist inquiries by providing the evidence it relied upon so funding can be reinstated as quickly as possible. 

Israel wants the organisation disbanded and replaced, accusing it of being used by Hamas, which Australia has designated a terrorist organisation. 

But the organisation is the only one capable of providing humanitarian aid, supplies and support at the scale needed in Gaza, Foreign Minister Penny Wong has said.

More than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed since Israel retaliated against Hamas in Gaza, with a further 1.7 million people displaced, according to the local health ministry and the United Nations.

Hamas killed 1200 Israelis and took more than 200 people hostage in the October 7 attack.