Independent review into the Afghanistan Locally Engaged Employee program

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The Hon Richard Marles MP

Deputy Prime Minister

Minister for Defence

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Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
dpm.media@defence.gov.au
02 6277 7800


Senator The Hon Penny Wong

Leader of the Government in the Senate

Minister for Foreign Affairs

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Foreign Minister Media Adviser - +61 432 522 598


The Hon Andrew Giles MP

Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs

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Immigration Minister’s Media Adviser - +61 403 732 346

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10 November 2022

As part of the Albanese Government’s commitment to standing by those who helped Australia, today we announce Dr Vivienne Thom AM will lead an Independent Review into the Afghan Locally Engaged Employee (LEE) program.

Established in 2012, the program gives eligible locally engaged Afghan employees, who are at risk of harm due to their employment in support of our mission in Afghanistan, priority under Australia’s Humanitarian Program. Since 2012, more than 2,300 Afghan LEE and their families have arrived in Australia.

But we have been clear in opposition and in government that the Morrison Government failed to apply the instrument consistently and in accordance with its original intent. As the situation in Kabul deteriorated, the previous Government did not move fast enough to certify and evacuate Locally Engaged Employees who had helped Australia.

The Senate Inquiry into Australia’s Engagement in Afghanistan confirmed this and recommended a review of the operation of the Afghan LEE program to ensure that programs of this nature are improved.

The Albanese Government is acting on this recommendation with Dr Thom’s review, which will examine how program decisions were made, including the application and appeals process, record keeping and departmental resourcing. It will also consider whether the legislative instrument that underpins this program remains fit for purpose.

Dr Thom AM has substantial experience leading public inquiries and is also leading the Afghanistan Inquiry Implementation Oversight Panel. 

Dr Thom AM will report her findings to the Australian Government in early 2023.

The Australian Government is committed to supporting the Afghan community, with 16,500 additional places allocated for Afghan nationals under the Humanitarian Program. This builds on the 10,000 places already allocated for Afghan nationals under the Humanitarian Program, and will be delivered over the next four years in addition to the annual intake.

In total, the Government is committed to fulfilling its allocation of 31,500 resettlement places for Afghan nationals - comprising 26,500 places under the Humanitarian Program and 5,000 places under the Family stream of the Migration Program.

Quote attributable to Deputy Prime Minister, Minister for Defence, the Hon Richard Marles:

“Our current and former ADF personnel have been clear about the painful impact of leaving people behind in Afghanistan.

Dr Thom’s review is critical to ensuring our ADF personnel can have confidence that Australia will stand by those help us.”

Quote attributable to Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator the Hon Penny Wong:

“We know that those attempting to leave Afghanistan face a very difficult set of circumstances, not least because border crossings out of the country are difficult and dangerous.

But Australia has a moral obligation to help those who helped us and we are focused doing everything we can to assist those people whose safety is at risk.”

Quote attributable to Minister for Immigration, Citizenship and Multicultural Affairs, the Hon Andrew Giles:

“We have a duty to ensure that our humanitarian efforts focus on those whose safety is most at risk, especially those who may face harm due to their involvement in our mission in Afghanistan.

The Government remains resolute in our commitment to prioritise the grant of visas for Afghan Locally Engaged Employees and their immediate families.”

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