SENATOR PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE AUSTRALIAN LABOR PARTY IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
LABOR SENATOR FOR SOUTH AUSTRALIA
SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
BRENDAN O’CONNOR MP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
MEMBER FOR GORTON
VISAS FOR ALL AFGHAN STAFF MUST BE FAST-TRACKED
Labor calls on the Morrison Government to fast-track visas for all Afghan interpreters and local staff, with growing reports of direct threats against their safety by the Taliban.
Scott Morrison needs to deliver an urgent coordinated plan across the Departments of Home Affairs, Defence and Foreign Affairs to help these people and their families by the time the last remaining troops leave Afghanistan in September.
During Senate Estimates last week Foreign Minister Marise Payne could not give any assurances that these visas would be processed with any urgency, saying that the Government would consider visa applications based on existing processes and “I can’t speak for Home Affairs”.
This stands in stark contrast with the plans by the US, UK and coalition members to evacuate thousands of local staff to safety with widespread troop withdrawals planned.
“Australia has a duty of care to these Afghan nationals who were vital to the Australian Government operations over 20 years,” said Shadow Foreign Minister, Senator Penny Wong.
“They now face threats from the Taliban and we have a moral obligation to act urgently to get them to safety.”
“In many cases, these interpreters wore Australian uniforms and helped keep our troops and diplomats safe, at great risk to themselves,” said Shadow Defence Minister, Brendan O’Connor.
“This is not the time for buck-passing between Ministers,” said Senator Kristina Keneally, the Shadow Minister for Home Affairs.
“Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews needs to get this done. These staff are facing real risks to their safety now, they can’t afford a year long wait for a visa.”
Reports today suggest a small group have had their visas approved after lengthy waits and have been told to prepare for an evacuation flight later this month - but there are hundreds of interpreters and local staff seeking protection.
Last week officials told Senate Estimates, staff would have to find “commercial options” to get to Australia once their visas and exemptions are processed – this just isn’t good enough.
We know from the 36,000 Australians stranded around the world how difficult getting a commercial flight home is. The Morrison Government needs to explain what help it will provide to get all approved staff and their families to Australia.
If Scott Morrison had acted sooner to deliver safe, federal quarantine, there would be more options to help get these people who have risked their lives for Australia to safety.
TUESDAY, 8 JUNE 2021