Minister for Defence and Minister for Immigration and Citizenship – Visa policy for at-risk Afghan employees

The Minister for Immigration and Citizenship, Chris Bowen MP and the Minister for Defence, Stephen Smith MP, today announced that Australia will offer resettlement to Australia to eligible locally engaged Afghan employees at risk of harm due to their employment in support of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan. 

This reflects Australia’s view of its moral obligation to current and former employees who have provided valuable support to Australia’s efforts in Afghanistan.

In 2008, the Government instituted a similar policy to facilitate resettlement to Australia of locally engaged Iraqi employees and their family members who supported Australia’s mission in Iraq.  Consistent with this approach, the Government will offer at-risk Afghan employees, and their direct family members, the opportunity to resettle in Australia. 

Australia remains committed to Afghanistan over the long term and, although a measured drawdown of our effort in Uruzgan is commencing, Australia will continue to employ local Afghans, including in Kabul, to support our long term commitment to Afghanistan. 

This visa policy is aimed at those locally engaged Afghan employees at the greatest risk of harm as a consequence of the support they have provided to Australia’s mission in Afghanistan.   

Under this policy, locally engaged Afghan employees interested in resettling in Australia will firstly need to be assessed by their employing Australian agency against specific threat criteria.  This will consider the level of direct support the applicant has provided to Australia’s mission in Afghanistan as well as its public profile, location and the period of employment.

Relevant Australian agencies include Defence, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, AusAID and the Australian Federal Police.  These agencies have employed locally engaged Afghan employees in a range of roles including interpreters and drivers.

If certified as eligible by the relevant Australian agency, the locally engaged Afghan employees will then be able to make an application for a visa under Australia’s Humanitarian Program.  They will be required to meet the standard visa criteria including health, character and security requirements. 

Successful applicants will be resettled under Australia’s Humanitarian Program, administered by the Department of Immigration and Citizenship.  They will have access to the same suite of resettlement services as any other humanitarian entrants, including accommodation support, basic assistance to set up a household, English language courses and help to access government, community and health services.

Media contacts:
Minister Smith’s Office: Sacha Fenton (02) 6277 7800 or 0467 784 528
Minister Bowen’s Office: Bill Kyriakopoulos (02) 6277 7860 or 0400 510 802

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