At least 100 Afghans who say they helped Australian troops and diplomats during the country’s long war are waiting for their visa applications to be processed while the Taliban sweeps across the country.
The United States has withdrawn 90 per cent of its forces and the Afghan government has proved incapable of halting the advance of the Taliban, which is now estimated to control about half the country and has a record of torturing and executing people who have collaborated with the US Coalition.
More than 1480 Afghans who aided Australians and their families have been given special visas to come to Australia since 2013, according to Home Affairs figures, with 230 handed the travel documents since April, when Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced the withdrawal of Australian troops.
Abdul Ghafar Stanikzai, a former human rights official in the Afghan province of Uruzgan, where Australian troops were stationed, said he had been in touch with an interpreter who had waited two years before being given a visa and was still waiting for a flight.
The man, who Dr Stanikzai did not name for security reasons, had been forced to move his whole family to Kabul, and then to different parts of the city, because he was afraid of reprisals.
“It’s a very big moral responsibility of the Australian government not to leave behind those who have served [Australia],” said Dr Stanikzai, who now lives in Adelaide. “It’s not just about them but their whole families.”
Jason Scanes, the founder of veterans advocacy group Forsaken Fighters, has been contacted by many of the Afghans who worked with Australians in roles such as security guards, interpreters, and aid contractors, and estimates there are between 1000 and 1200 people who deserve Australia’s help.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said locally engaged staff with a legitimate case are being given an opportunity to come to Australia.
“The Australian government is working to ensure each case is considered swiftly and those at risk of harm who meet visa requirements are resettled to Australia as soon as possible,” the spokeswoman said.