Australia Extends Temporary Afghan Humanitarian Visas

By Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu is an Australian reporter based in Sydney. She focuses on the Australian economy, property, and education. Contact her at rebecca.zhu@epochtimes.com.au.
November 18, 2021 Updated: November 18, 2021

The Australian government will extend temporary humanitarian visas issued to Afghans who support Australian forces in Afghanistan.

The decision to provide an extension on an “ongoing basis” applies to visas issued to Locally Engaged Employees (LEE), or certified local workers, and their families from the Department of Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the Australian Federal Police, as well as others who worked with the Australian government.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has said the Taliban should not obstruct the efforts of those who wish to leave the country.

“Australia expects the Taliban to uphold its undertakings to allow Australians and Afghan visa holders to depart Afghanistan safely if they wish to do so. We continue to work with international partners to that end,” Hawke said. “Australia will also continue to utilise our close working relationship with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees to identify those Afghans most in need.”

Epoch Times Photo
British armed forces work with the U.S. military to evacuate eligible civilians and their families out of the country in Kabul, Afghanistan on Aug. 21, 2021. (British Ministry of Defense Crown Copyright via Getty Images)

Over 5,600 temporary humanitarian visas have been issued in response to the crisis in Afghanistan, of which 3,500 have begun their settlement journey in Australia.

However, temporary humanitarian visas granted to Afghans outside of the LEE program will expire.

These people will be given priority in Australia’s humanitarian and refugee intake program.

Australia allocated 3,000 humanitarian visas to Afghan refugees in response to the crisis.

A Senate inquiry into Australia’s engagement in Afghanistan revealed that none of the 3,000 visas have yet to be granted.

“We haven’t granted protection visas to anyone who’s just arrived, we are not at that point yet,” Department of Home Affairs immigration program first assistant secretary David Wilden said. “They’re still on their 449s and they haven’t lodged their protection visas.”

“Just to be clear, the 499 visas, being the visa that helped the evacuation, aren’t places in the program.”

Afghanistan taliban
Members of the Taliban patrol on a pickup truck in Kabul, on Sept. 30, 2021. (Bulent Kilic/AFP via Getty Images)

Hawke said Afghans who seek Australia’s protection can apply under the Humanitarian Program, with priority given to vulnerable and persecuted minorities, women and child, and those with links to Australia.

Applicants must meet all visa criteria for character, security, and health.

“The Government will continue to make announcements regarding Afghanistan and the evolving humanitarian situation in the near future,” Hawke said.

AAP contributed to this article

Rebecca Zhu
Rebecca Zhu is an Australian reporter based in Sydney. She focuses on the Australian economy, property, and education. Contact her at rebecca.zhu@epochtimes.com.au.