Afghan families sponsored by the AOC are still waiting for humanitarian visas from the Australian government

Five Afghan families who were sponsored by the Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) remain stranded, desperately waiting for humanitarian visas issued by the Australian government.

Families have fled Afghanistan and lack money. They have no other means of subsistence.

A member of one of the families is also a survivor of torture for his work supporting female athletes.

They have been waiting for news since September last year and fear they have been overlooked due to the Australian government’s decision to provide much-needed assistance to Ukrainians fleeing war in their country.

Abdul (pseudonym) was previously arrested by the Taliban and beaten before being released. Like many who lived under the Taliban, he and his family remain in fear even when outside the country.

Not that he needs to be reminded of the dangers he would have faced had he remained in Afghanistan, as other family members – including children – were seriously injured in the blast. an Islamic State bomb.

The story of each family fleeing Afghanistan across the border to Pakistan or Iran is poignant.

They are now each awaiting interviews and medical checks with Australian embassy staff, although they have been told such meetings cannot take place until case numbers are assigned to them by authorities. Australian immigration authorities in Canberra.

Calls to Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s office over the past few weeks have gone unanswered.

Mohammed (pseudonym) ferried at-risk female athletes to Kabul airport through a series of dangerous checkpoints immediately after the Taliban takeover last August, allowing them to board evacuation flights from Australian Defense Forces to Qatar before being allowed to enter Australia.

He also played a key role in rescuing four children – all on Australian visas – who had become separated from their mothers at Kabul airport, helping transport them across the border with Pakistan in the hands of Australian officials.

They have since been reunited with their family in Australia, while Mohammed and his family now face deportation from Pakistan to Kabul unless they are given an emergency extension to stay there pending news of the death. ‘Australia.

At the COA’s Annual General Meeting last week, Chief Executive Matt Carroll included the plight of Afghans in his report to Olympic sports delegates and International Olympic Committee (IOC) officials in the room.

“In response to the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and in support of the IOC’s request…the AOC sponsored visa applications for Afghan athletes and sports officials and their families,” Carroll said.

“Since August last year, we have been making their case to the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, the Immigration Minister.

“Foreign Secretary Marise Payne and her office have been tremendous in their support, but unfortunately visa approvals are still pending and, appallingly, some of the officials [in Afghanistan] were tortured.

“We continue our advocacy and remain in regular contact with the athletes.

“I actually received one this morning and unfortunately one of them and his son were injured in an explosion yesterday at a mosque in Kabul.

Australian Government and Defense Force personnel have won praise from abroad for their role in rescuing more than 60 Afghan athletes – mostly women – and their families from the chaos of the airport immediately after the fall of Kabul at the end of August 2021.

But those who stayed behind to help others now face dire consequences – including torture – if they fail to obtain humanitarian visas from Australia and are sent back to Afghanistan.

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