Afghan refugees begin new lives in Australia as concerns remain for family left behind

As some of the first Afghans who arrived in Australia on evacuation flights are starting their new lives in the community, others still in hotel quarantine have recounted their despair at leaving loved ones behind.

Afghan man and former ADF translator Fahim and his wife on a flight to Perth.

Afghan man and former ADF translator Fahim and his wife on a flight to Perth. Source: Supplied

A former interpreter for Australia, Fahim was among the first of those to be evacuated from Kabul to Perth.

He and his family were among dozens who arrived in Melbourne on Saturday night, after completing two weeks of hotel quarantine.

They are keen to start building their new life in Australia in a home of their own, once they can leave the temporary accommodation they are in.


“Obviously they feel overwhelming relief to be out of a situation of immediate danger to themselves but many of them, their primary need at the moment is the need for assistance with protecting other family members,” the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre’s principal solicitor Carolyn Graydon said.

Hazara refugee Amena managed to escape on one of the last evacuation flights, but she was forced to leave her family behind, as they battled crowds and Taliban gunfire at the airport.

“They caught my brothers, my parents and stopped them from moving beyond the gate. I was on one side of the gate, they were on the other. The Taliban had guns, they were hitting people,” Amena said.

While Amena had a visa to Australia, the rest of her family didn't.

They're now in hiding in Kabul, unable to return home to rural Afghanistan because it’s been taken by the Taliban.

“I was able to get to Dubai but my family, they were left behind. My dad, my brothers and sisters, all of them - I couldn't go back to save them,” Amena said.

ASRC Principal Solicitor Carolyn Graydon.
ASRC Principal Solicitor Carolyn Graydon. Source: Supplied
Refugee legal groups across Australia like the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre said there has been a large spike in demand from separated families for help with visa applications.

“Parents have tried to flee to the border and one parent's been detained by the Taliban at the checkpoint, the other one's now stuck there. And there are brothers and sisters, or sisters with young children who are unable to make it to safety as well,” Carolyn Graydon said.

She said the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre has been receiving around 400 calls a day from people desperate for help for loved ones in Afghanistan.

“We've faced an enormous spike in demand for legal assistance and for information from members of the Afghan community about their options and pathways for bringing family members to safety,” Ms Graydon said.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said last month that the government would provide around 3,000 humanitarian visas to Afghan applicants this financial year, which will come from the existing intake of 13,750, rather than a special allocation. 

3 min read
Published 6 September 2021 at 7:53pm
By Rashida Yosufzai, Amy Hall