More than 90 Australians and Afghans evacuated out of Afghanistan will arrive in Perth on Friday morning as Australia desperately tries to secure landing spots at Kabul airport to rescue more citizens and Afghan visa holders after the takeover by the Taliban.
Afghans wanting to board flights still face a perilous journey to the airport with a total of 12 people killed in and around the airport since the Taliban seized the city on Sunday and reports of the Taliban deterring people who aren’t foreigners from leaving.
In addition to a Royal Australian Air Force flight that collected 26 people on Wednesday morning, 76 Australians and Afghan nationals were able to board a British aircraft late on Wednesday night. It is expected more Afghan nationals with Australian visas will be able to board American and British military flights over the coming days, while Australia is also trying to secure its own landing spots for RAAF aircraft.
The Australians are being taken to Australia’s forward operating base in the Middle East, Al Minhad Airbase, south of Dubai. The first flight back to Australia was scheduled to take off on Thursday night Australian time and arrive in Perth, where the passengers will undertake 14 days quarantine.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said American and British soldiers had been able to secure the airport which would allow the evacuations to continue. But he warned the weather around Kabul and the “extremely dangerous, extremely complex” security situation outside the airport would continue to pose challenges.
“We expect to continue [evacuation flights] now throughout the course of this week and into next week, but we are moving urgently, but safely, because we are taking nothing for granted,” Mr Morrison said. “The weather is closing in it, which will present challenges over the next few days, but equally the situation can always turn, and so we are moving as quickly as we can.”
Mr Morrison said the British flight also deployed an additional 40 Australian Defence Force personnel in addition to the officials from the ADF, Department of Home Affairs and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade who were dropped off on Wednesday.
Two C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and two larger C-17A Globemaster transport aircraft are on standby to assist in more evacuations. DFAT on Thursday afternoon sent an urgent advisory out to all Australian citizens, permanent residents and Australian visa-holders in Kabul to immediately travel to the airport for a “planned evacuation flight”.