Australia urged to consider special intake of Afghan refugees facing threats from Taliban

Afghans in Australia say they fear for their families back home as the Taliban advance forces more people to flee.

Yalda Siddiqui joins other members of Adelaide's Afghan community on Saturday, urging the federal government to help people displaced by the Taliban's violence.

Yalda Siddiqui joins other members of Adelaide's Afghan community on Saturday, urging the federal government to help people displaced by the Taliban's violence. Source: SBS News/Peta Doherty

Human rights groups and Afghans in Australia are urging the federal government to consider a special intake of refugees in Afghanistan fleeing violence from the Taliban.

Western countries have sped up their evacuation of embassy staff and the Afghan locals that assisted them as the Taliban captures more areas of Afghanistan.  

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The capital of Kabul and Jalalabad in the country's east are the only cities not under the control of the Taliban. 

Amnesty International's Australia refugee rights adviser Graham Thom said the federal government should consider options for Afghans in Australia who are on temporary visas to remain in the country without having to re-apply every three years. 

"Surely, this is a time to acknowledge that is a nonsense and that we need to give these people an avenue to permanency," he told SBS News.

He said there is a sense of anxiety among Afghans in Australia who fear being sent to Afghanistan.

"If you're an individual who is having to re-process - go through a process again - knowing that a decision-maker could reject you, and try and send you back to that country, you are obviously terrified at the moment."

Hundreds rallied in Adelaide on Saturday, protesting against the Taliban's violence in Afghanistan.
Hundreds rallied in Adelaide on Saturday, protesting against the Taliban's violence in Afghanistan. Source: SBS News/Peta Doherty


The Department of Home Affairs said since 15 April, more than 570 people in Afghanistan have been granted a visa as part of the Afghan locally engaged employees program. 

In the 2020-21 budget announced last October, Australia's humanitarian program was cut by 5,000 places from the 2018-19 level to 13,750. 

Mr Thom said a special refugee intake to respond to the unfolding humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan should be "a priority for this government". 

"This is likely to ripple throughout the region. What is the government doing in this region to make sure these people get protection and they don't have to make dangerous onward journeys? Because that is the last thing we want to see happen." 

'Really painful'

Yalda Siddiqui in Adelaide said she fears for the fate of her husband in Kabul. 

"Day and night, I worry about his safety. He said his situation is getting worse and worse and worse," she told SBS News. 

"We're hearing in the news that Kabul could soon be under the control of the Taliban. At the moment, most of the districts are controlled by the Taliban."

She said reports of the violence against civilians by the Taliban have been "heartbreaking" and prompted her to join hundreds on Saturday rallying in Adelaide to urge the Australian government to help.

Members of the Afghan community in Adelaide protest on Saturday, urging the Australian government to help those displaced by Taliban violence.
Members of the Afghan community in Adelaide protest on Saturday, urging the Australian government to help those displaced by Taliban violence. Source: SBS News/Peta Doherty


"It is really painful to see innocent children, innocent women getting killed."

Hazara Australian Sakhidad Faiaz in Perth said 10 of his relatives have been killed by the Taliban this year. 

"They took them to a hall and beat them so much they broke their arms, legs and neck," he told SBS News. "And even after they had died, they kept beating them." 

Jan Ali Mohammadi said he has fears for his loved ones if they are forced to go back to Afghanistan.

"I worry that if they go back to Afghanistan, if it is under the control of the Taliban, maybe they will kill them too."

'Redouble our effort'

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Sunday said 400 Afghans who assisted the Australian Defence Force in Afghanistan have already been brought to Australia.

"Our focus now is to ensure that we continue to support those who have aided us and ensuring that 400 people have already been brought to Australia. We have been working on this quite rapidly in recent months as the situation continues to deteriorate."

He refused to confirm any further deployment of troops or further evacuations of Afghan civilians. 

"We will continue to redouble our effort in that regard with our partners."



Mr Morrison said Australian soldiers who served in Afghanistan received the nation's "humble thanks", adding that their service was "not in vain".

"The world more broadly is more complex environment, and so we can only offer our humble thanks of a nation to them," he said.

"And I don't believe any Australian who falls in that service dies in vain, because what we always seek to fight for, which is freedom, is always important in whatever course, regardless of the outcome."

'Situation is very dire'

Over the weekend, American military personnel arrived in Kabul to evacuate American embassy employees and Afghan civilians who worked for US forces.

The Pentagon estimates it will need to evacuate about 30,000 people before the US completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan by 31 August, a deadline set by President Joe Biden.

"I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan - two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth," Mr Biden said earlier this week.

He said 5,000 soldiers will be deployed to assist evacuations after unexpected territorial gains made by Taliban militants. 

The UK said it would deploy about 600 troops to help its citizens and local translators get out.

Canada said on Friday it would take in 20,000 Afghan refugees as the Taliban seized major cities. 



"The situation in Afghanistan is heartbreaking and Canada will not stand idly by," Immigration Minister Marco Mendicino said. 

Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra on Sunday the operational goal of the Australian Defence Force to "hunt down Osama bin Laden" was achieved, but the security situation for civilians remains volatile. 

"My concern is for the people of Afghanistan and seeking to protect the lives of Afghans," he said. 

"The world is a complex place and there is no place more complex than Afghanistan. Australia and our allies have done much to secure their peace but this remains a very troubled part of the world, not just recently but over generations and generations.

"We went there with our primary purpose, as I’ve indicated, and that was to hunt down Osama bin Laden and prevent al-Qaeda using it as a base and mounting their attack. That was achieved but the challenge for the people of Afghanistan, sadly, remains an unresolved issue and we hope for the best for them but the situation is very dire."


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6 min read
Published 15 August 2021 at 3:13pm
By Peta Doherty, Rashida Yosufzai, Biwa Kwan
Source: SBS News