Australia’s evacuation of Afghans and Aussie citizens in Kabul who are trying to flee the Taliban is off to a pretty crap start, going off what scant details Scott Morrison has told us so far.
The initial RAAF flight out of Kabul this week picked up just 26 people, which comprised of Australian citizens and Afghan nationals with Aussie visas, plus one foreign official who worked for an international agency. That flight landed at an Aussie airbase in the UAE on Wednesday morning.
The PM made no mention of the Afghan interpreters who worked for the Australian army over the past two decades whose lives are now at risk as the Taliban seek revenge.
“Some of us were shot, murdered, tortured for helping Australian soldiers and it happened to our family members like siblings and parents as well,” former Afghan interpreter Raz Mohammad, who now lives in Australia, wrote in a Change.org petition.
“I’m terrified for the former ADF interpreters and their family members still trapped in Afghanistan who could be killed because of our affiliation with ADF – unless the government gives them humanitarian visas to bring them to safety in Australia directory from Afghanistan.”
Mohammad wrote that back in 2016. Imagine how much more dire the situation is now that the Taliban has recaptured Kabul and formed a transitional government.
It’s also worth noting that the calls to evacuate these local Afghan contractors are not part of some Western savior complex – it’s about a duty of care. These people risked their lives for Australian armed forces and now they have no choice but to flee the Taliban because of that.
“I think we also have to explain to Australians that we’re dealing with people who have worked for us not last week but they may have worked for us four years ago or five years ago,” Morrison told reporters at a presser on Wednesday.
“We knew where they were then and we may not have heard from them for a very long time, and we don’t know what they’ve been doing in that intervening period in what has been a very unstable situation.”
So that’s Morrison admitting there were people who worked with Australian forces around the time of Mohammad’s petition who are still over in Afghanistan, trying to flee the Taliban. It’s pretty fucken bleak.
As for accepting general refugees from Afghanistan whose lives are also in danger now that the Taliban is in charge, the government’s position isn’t much better.
Australia will provide 3,000 humanitarian visas to people from Afghanistan, namely people with Aussie relos plus “persecuted minorities such as women and girls, children, the Hazara [community] and other vulnerable groups.”
While that’s double the usual intake from Afghanistan, these visas will come from Australia’s existing international refugee quota of 13,750 people per year.
In other words, Australia will allocate a few of its already-limited refugee spots to Afghans, but our overall refugee intake hasn’t increased.
Meanwhile, Afghan asylum seekers who are currently in Australia after arriving by boat won’t be given any pathway to citizenship or even permanent residency.
This is part of the government’s existing hardline stance against asylum seekers who arrive by boat, but the fact that no exceptions are being made now that the Taliban has taken over is pretty shocking.
It doesn’t have to be like this. Canada, for example, last week pledged to resettle 20,000 Afghans fleeing persecution. That’s a stark difference to the 26 people Australia airlifted out on the first flight.