More than 500 Afghan nationals who were employed in support of Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, together with their families, have now been granted visas to Australia under the 2013-14 refugee and humanitarian programme.
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, the Hon Scott Morrison MP said this was a significant achievement.
“This policy reflects Australia’s fulfillment of its moral obligation to those who provided invaluable support to Australia’s efforts in Afghanistan,” Minister Morrison said.
“I commend our government agencies and partners for their assistance in this programme including the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Defence and the Department of Social Services, who have been working closely together to ensure we can honour our commitments to those who helped our troops,” he said.
Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon David Johnston, said the locally engaged employees (LEE), including interpreters, were assessed to be at risk of harm after providing critical support to the Australian Defence Force and Australian Government agencies in Afghanistan, by breaking down cultural and language barriers.
“Many of these employees were placed at significant risk of harm by insurgents in Afghanistan, due to the highly visible and dangerous nature of their employment,” Minister Johnston said.
Government representatives recently met the former Afghan employees and their family members to thank them for their support and welcome them to Australia.
Participants said they were thankful for the opportunity to settle in safety in Australia and said they were eager to start new lives and establish themselves as soon as possible.
Minister for Social Services, the Hon Kevin Andrews MP, said the humanitarian settlement services (HSS) programme had provided these employees and their families with early, practical support to help them participate in the economic and social life of Australia.
“Through the HSS, the Australian Government has provided resettled Afghan employees with a range of support, including accommodation, household assistance and access to government, community and health services,” Minister Andrews said.
“Many have already commenced employment or vocational training opportunities and their children are enrolled in school.”
The majority of those already settled in Australia arrived over the latter part of 2013 and early 2014 after submitting their applications by the initial deadline of the end of September.
It is imperative for the Government to conduct this process with a high level of discretion, given the sensitivities and risks involved for the applicants and their families. As a result, and for their protection, the Government has been reluctant to comment on this programme until now.
It is now important that those who have now come to Australia under this programme are allowed to get on with their lives, with their families, as new Australian residents and in the future as citizens.
Australia is committed to continue supporting Afghanistan beyond 2014, when the International Security Assistance Force mission in Afghanistan ends.
Following the completion of Australia’s mission in Uruzgan and the departure of Australian Defence Force personnel from the province, Australia has shifted to a nationally orientated mission which will continue to provide training and advisory support to the Afghan National Security Forces."
The Australian Government continues to consider applications for resettlement in Australia under this policy. Further information on Australia’s visa policy for at-risk locally engaged Afghan employees can be found at www.immi.gov.au/visas/humanitarian/offshore/afghanistan-lees-faqs.htm
Minister Morrison: Kerri Griffiths 0417 617 482
Minister Johnston: Rebecca Horton 0477 389 554
Minister Andrews: Jan Le Maitre 0477 721 360