Dozens of Afghan nationals who worked with Australia in Afghanistan but did not obtain visas for at-risk employees were told they would be given priority in the larger pool of 3,000 humanitarian places.
The move portends that some of the humanitarian locations announced by the Australian government after Kabul fell to the Taliban last week could be occupied by former interpreters and security guards stranded for the former employee regime.
Former workers fear Taliban retaliation for aiding Western forces and there have been chaotic and dangerous scenes on the way to Kabul airport from where Australia and its allies are carrying out evacuation flights.
But some workers were found to be ineligible for the Australian government’s specific scheme, including on technical issues such as being an entrepreneur rather than a direct employee or not applying on time.
An email sent by the Department of Defense on Monday and seen by Guardian Australia, tells unsuccessful applicants to the employee program that they may be eligible for the broader humanitarian contribution.
“Given your ties to Australia, although you have not been certified as a locally engaged employee, you will be given priority consideration under the 3,000 places in our recently announced government humanitarian program,” indicates the email.
The e-mail adds that the Ministry of the Interior “will contact you directly as soon as possible to collect the information necessary for the examination of your requests for protection”.
As Australia’s parliament stopped Monday to reflect on the defense forces’ 20-year commitment to Afghanistan, Anthony Albanese attacked the government’s response to the deepening crisis.
The opposition leader said the Australian team at Kabul airport had been “faced with an almost impossible task – a task all the more difficult since this effort was launched far too late”.
And he said the confusion over Australian Embassy security guards who were advised over the weekend to contact a migration officer was “almost unbelievable in its sheer callousness.”
It emerged that some Afghan interpreters and embassy staff who assisted Australia were granted temporary visas to escape the Taliban regime, a day after some learned that their special category visa applications had been rejected. .
Home Secretary Karen Andrews confirmed on Monday that some contractors had obtained humanitarian visas 449 and were told they had to “go to the gates” of the airport. Guardian Australia is aware of at least three interpreters and their families who are part of the group of people given a lifeline and safe passage to Australia.
An interpreter, who applied in June, told Guardian Australia he was rejected by the Defense Ministry on Saturday and was unable to apply for the locally recruited employee program. On Monday, his hopes were raised after receiving an evacuation offer and a temporary visa from the Australian government.
Another interpreter, who was in the final stages of the special category visa process, was awaiting a medical assessment appointment when the Taliban recaptured the capital last week, throwing it into chaos.
On Sunday he told Guardian Australia he had managed to get inside the airport with his family three days earlier and was awaiting a flight.
“We can’t see anything because we are in a complex,” he said. âWe hear gunshots all the time. “
African-Australian Leeda Moorabi tried to help her brother-in-law and sister, also Australian citizens, get to the airport so they could board an evacuation flight. Guardian Australia chose not to name the couple for their safety.
“He waited at the gate yesterday for over 20 hours, then they said it was closed, so he went to another gate and there the Taliban checkpoint did not let his sister because she did not have an Australian visa.
âSo he went to the door to try to talk with the troops, but without success because there were so many peopleâ¦ They went home.
âHe’s scared, so we had to convince him to go back to the airport, but he’s scared of losing his sister.
“We told him to form a group with others [Australian] citizens at the airport and they should approach the gate as a group and make as much noise as possible, we hope that will work.
Glenn Kolomeitz, an immigration lawyer and former army major who represents hundreds of former ADF interpreters and Australian support staff, accused the government of trying to “get this out to the media”, before to inform its clients that they had already obtained temporary visas.
He said the confusion had further panicked Afghans who were rushing to flee the country, fearing their work for coalition forces would put them further at risk.
He said he and his team “were working around the clock to get these guys out.”
âThe bureaucracy around this situation has been horrible. “
The Australian government said the ADF carried out four more evacuation flights on Sunday evening, carrying more than 450 people. The ABC reported on Monday that Defense had also rescued more than 50 Afghan athletes and their dependents.
Insinuating that a deadline to leave Afghanistan by August 31 may not be reasonable in order to bring back all Australians and visa holders, Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said the Australia was in talks with its ally over expanding US-led evacuation operations. .
Payne said Australia was “absolutely ready to support an ongoing operation at Hamid Karzai International Airport”.
In parliament, Defense Minister Peter Dutton read the names of the 41 Australians who died in Australia’s longest military engagement, while Prime Minister Scott Morrison acknowledged “the terrible loss suffered by their families” .
Albanese said the Taliban takeover was “potentially fatal for the many Afghans who have worked with Australian troops and officials for many years have and have not yet been cleared out.”
At Question Time, Shadow Defense Minister Brendan O’Connor called on Morrison to take responsibility for not moving faster to rescue the Afghans who had worked with the ADF.
Morrison said 430 workers and their families had been relocated under the locally recruited employee program since April. âThis government has worked steadily, steadily and urgently for years, for years, to get people out of Afghanistan and we continue to do so now. “