By Cam Lucadou-Wells
A migration officer from Dandenong welcomed the 12-month extension of visas for evacuees from Taliban-led Afghanistan.
Thay Horn Yim said the extension of the three-month evacuation visa (subclass 449) in November was “good news” as many were due to expire.
However, Yim said the âbad newsâ was that none of the 3,000 humanitarian visas promised by the federal government had yet been issued.
They cover a fraction of the 26,000 who had applied for humanitarian visas in mid-November, and another 6,000 requested protection, according to the Interior Ministry.
Home Office first secretary David Wilden said on November 15 during a Senate inquiry that humanitarian visa processing should be done before Christmas.
âObviously, when we get so many in a very short period of time, there are delays. “
He said Home Secretary Alex Hawke and the government were considering how many more places would be added to the 3,000 – which was a “floor”, not a “ceiling” for Australia’s commitment.
âIt doesn’t matter if it’s 3,000 or more, it will be significantly less than the number of claims we have. “
Mr Wilden said the visas would prioritize locally recruited employees in Afghanistan, those particularly at risk, women at risk and those with close ties to Australia.
By mid-November, 3,568 evacuees with 449 temporary visas had arrived in Australia.
More than 2,000 449 visa holders were still abroad, with an unknown number still in Afghanistan.
During the Senate inquiry, academic expert Dr Nematullah Bizhan urged Australia to increase its number of Afghan refugees to at least 20,000 and speed up humanitarian visas.
âAn increasing number of people who worked in civil society with the previous government or with the international community in Afghanistan are at risk of persecution and execution.
Dr Bizhan said many saw no hope of sustaining themselves due to the “difficult” economic situation.
âThe situation in Afghanistan is grim, rather grim.
âBut one fact that we cannot deny is that over the past two decades, society has changed in Afghanistan. The Taliban are pursuing the same policies they had in the 90s, but people are different.
âSo now we hear women protesting and asking the Taliban. For the moment, this protest is suppressed, not only by force, but also by economic means. “
Foreign Affairs and Trade Department first deputy secretary Gary Cowan told the inquest that Australia had announced a $ 100 million humanitarian support package including food and shelter, health clinics and the protection of women and girls.
The government would also help Afghanistan’s neighboring countries support refugees and curb migrant smuggling.
The federal government recently granted an exemption for visa holders of subclass 449 to apply for refugee visas that are normally only applied for outside Australia.
Applicants will not have to prove “continued risk of harm in Afghanistan” for the 201 refugee visa.
Public interest criteria such as character and health will always apply.