Immigration

Afghan Invictus athletes who remained in Australia granted permanent visas

0:00

The men, who live with disabilities and stayed behind in Australia after last year's Invictus Games, have been given permanent protection.

Six former Afghani soldiers who sought asylum in Australia after last October's Invictus Games in Sydney have been granted permanent protection visas, according to the law firm which acted on their behalf.

All but one of the athletes lost limbs in operations against the Taliban, with some losing both legs.

When the athletes were invited to Australia to compete in the games, they and their families reportedly became targets of the Taliban, who disliked the Invictus Games’ association with their Western-allied foes.

 

Sydney Invictus Games
Five of the six Afghan Invictus athletes and officials who remained in Australia.
SBS

The five athletes and one official were issued with bridging visas after the games concluded, which enabled them to stay legally in Australia while their protection visas were being processed. The final athlete had their permanent visa granted on Tuesday.

“We are extremely pleased with this outcome,” Alison Battisson, Director Principal of law firm Human Rights for All, told SBS News.

“After the Games were over the athletes sought legal advice, and were able to commence an asylum process that after eight or nine months, resulted in permanent visas.”

'Decision not planned'

The athletes' decision to stay behind after the games was revealed exclusively by SBS Pashto in November last year. In an interview, Mirwais Ramaki, a games volunteer who was helping the team, said they never intended to stay behind. 

"They planned to go back, but these 10 days actually changed them,” he said. 

“One of them actually said when he came and saw the people here - basically it was his first time coming out of the country, being in a safe and peaceful environment - that totally changed his perceptions."

Afghan team
The team at the 2018 Invictus Games.
Facebook/Invictus Afghanistan

The Invictus Games is an international event created by the Duke of Sussex, Prince Harry, in which wounded military veterans compete in various sports.

Permanent protection visas grant holders the ability to live, work and study in Australia indefinitely; access government services such as Medicare and welfare; sponsor eligible family members for their own permanent residence; and, in some cases, become a citizen.

Ms Battison said the athletes are looking forward to giving back to Australia.

“Some have already started working and are paying taxes,” she said.

“They can’t wait to contribute and pay thanks to the country that gave them asylum”, she said.

Human Rights for All want to see uniform processing times for all asylum seekers, including those in offshore detention, Ms Battison said.

"There is no reason why it would take years to process asylum claims for people in detention, and yet, it can be done in a matter of months for those in the community.

"There is an enormous gap there that I think should be examined."

The Department of Home Affairs has been contacted for comment.

Stay up to date with SBS NEWS

  • App
  • Subscribe
  • Follow
  • Listen
  • Watch