Afghanistan

The security and humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan is devastating for the people of Afghanistan, for Australian-Afghan communities, for the Afghan staff that supported our military and diplomatic operations for over 20 years – and for our veterans.

And for the women and girls of Afghanistan who now face the prospect of a cruel and brutal regime.

Many Australians - including veterans - are horrified to see the Taliban surge across the country.

Labor is deeply concerned about the stability of Afghanistan and we urge the Morrison Government to work with international partners to help support efforts towards a negotiated settlement and a permanent ceasefire.

Labor will use all avenues to ensure the Morrison Government continues to support the people of Afghanistan, including through Australia’s humanitarian assistance program.

Labor understands that this is a deeply distressing time for Australians of Afghan descent, and Afghan visa holders in Australia who are fearful for the safety of their loved ones.

Kabul attack -

Labor condemns in the strongest terms the attack at Kabul airport.
 
This was a despicable act against Afghans seeking security and those who were helping them. We note Islamic State Khorasan Province has claimed responsibility.
 
We grieve with the people of Afghanistan today. We grieve with our US allies - their work has saved many thousands of people.
 
US forces have played a crucial role in the evacuation operation, ensuring safe passage for around 4,000 Australians and visa holders, alongside our ADF. We thank them for their bravery and sacrifice.
 
Labor is greatly relieved that all Australian personnel are safe. 
 
We remain gravely concerned for Australian citizens and visa holders who remain in Afghanistan and can no longer safely travel to Kabul airport.
 
We will be seeking updates from the Morrison Government on what this means for the operation going forward.

On assistance for those in Afghanistan –

The government has updated the Smart Traveller advice to advise that Australian evacuation flights from Kabul have ceased, and all Australian Government personnel have left Kabul. There's an ongoing and very high threat of terrorist attack. Explosions have occurred in the vicinity of the Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport.

Those in Kabul are advised not to travel to the airport. If they are in the area, they should move to a safe location.

Everyone seeking assistance in Afghanistan should register with Smartraveller and monitor for updates at https://www.smartraveller.gov.au/destinations/asia/afghanistan.

On evacuations for defence interpreters and local staff –

The Afghan civilians who worked alongside Australian soldiers and diplomats, who wore Australian uniforms and who kept our people safe now face increasing threats to their lives and the lives of their families, because of the assistance they provided our nation.

We have a moral obligation to help the people who have helped Australia – and we have a national security obligation to make clear to the world if you help Australia, we will help you. 

It’s an important message of respect for our veterans that we are standing by the people who stood by them.

Our major allies understand the urgency and are ramping up evacuations - including to third countries while processing takes place.

Labor has been calling on the Morrison-Joyce Government to fast-track this process for months. Mr Morrison should have been working with Coalition partners and arranging evacuations months ago.

In 2008, in similar circumstances when Iraqis were being given visas to Australia, there was a bipartisan effort to send a team of government officials overseas to assist them to complete their applications.

This is also a distressing time for many veterans, many of whom are concerned about leaving their mates behind.

All visa processing must be subject to integrity and national security checks, but this should not be an excuse for inaction.

Labor will continue to advocate for some decency and fairness in Australia’s response.  

On humanitarian/partner visas and processing times -

We understand this is a heartbreaking time for the Australian-Afghan community. Labor and all Australians stand with you.

We have been calling for the Morrison-Joyce Government to develop a plan to urgently fast-track visas and evacuations for the immediate family members of Australians who are in Afghanistan, along with those who supported Australian operations.

Thousands of husbands, wives, partners and children of Australians have been waiting for years for partner and family visas, and others must now be eligible for refugee and humanitarian visas.

There are thousands unused places in the existing humanitarian visa program and the government should ensure any applications are processed as quickly as possible.

No one should be involuntarily deported to Afghanistan if they don’t want to go back.

All visa processing must be subject to integrity and national security checks, but this should not be an excuse for inaction.

Support for Veterans –

We call on the Morrison-Joyce Government to be proactive in reaching out to those veterans who fought in Afghanistan and to the families who have lost loved ones.

Many veterans are horrified to see the Taliban surge across the country.

We know that mental health issues among the veteran community are a serious concern, and more needs to be done now to ensure these issues aren’t exacerbated further.

Many veterans have said this issue is exacerbating their existing trauma because they see it as leaving their mates behind.

Support is available for current and ex-serving defence personnel, and their families through Open Arms - Veterans and Families Counselling by phone on 1800 011 046 (international +61 8 8241 4546) or via www.OpenArms.gov.au

On closure of the Australian Embassy in Afghanistan –

Labor noted the decision of the Government to temporarily close Australia’s embassy in Afghanistan as a result of the deteriorating security situation. 

We were disappointed that after 20 years of successive Australian military, diplomatic and development engagement in Afghanistan, there was no bipartisan consultation on this important decision. 

The Prime Minister said on 15 April that Australia will continue to support the stability and development of Afghanistan through our bilateral partnership, ‘including our diplomatic presence, development cooperation program, and continued people-to-people links’ and that Australia remained committed to helping Afghanistan preserve the gains of the past 20 years, particularly for women and girls. 

The Morrison Government should explain how it will now meet these commitments.