Morrison Government must extend visas to Afghan contractors

Amnesty International Australia and a coalition of international translation, interpreter and human rights groups has written an open letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison asking for humanitarian protection visas to be extended to contractors as well as employees of Australian Defence and related organisations in Afghanistan.

The letter expresses concerns for Afghans who were employed by Australian Government agencies as private contractors, but were not employed directly by the Australian Government, and who have had their applications for protection visas rejected.

Others, including interpreters, AusAID contractors, security guards, and Embassy staff, are still waiting for their visas to be processed.

“We’re calling on the Australian government to fast-track protection visas for all locally engaged Afghan civilians that worked with Australian personnel,” Amnesty International Australia National Director, Sam Klintworth, said.

“Decisions concerning protection visas must be made with regard to the threat to their lives stemming from their involvement with Australia, and not according to their employment status.

“These staff, who have put their lives on the line to support Australian men and women, now fear retaliation from the Taliban and face significant threats to their safety.”

As NATO forces have withdrawn in recent weeks and months, the Taliban has recaptured much of Afghanistan. The United States will finalise its withdrawal by 31 August 2021.

The window in which these people can be safely rescued is closing due to the Australian Government’s decision to withdraw – it is imperative that the Australian Government now acts urgently to secure their safety. Any visas for these staff should be in addition to Australia’s existing humanitarian intake.