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Two boys pass members of a Taliban Red Unit, an elite force, in Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 13, 2020. © 2020 Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times/Redux

(Sydney) – The Australian government should urgently help protect Afghan civilians who are at heightened risk under the new Taliban authorities, Human Rights Watch said today in a letter to Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

The government should also increase assistance for refugees and civil society groups, and support resolutions at the United Nations Human Rights Council for human rights fact-finding and reporting in Afghanistan.

“Instead of scaling-up protection and support to Afghans in their time of need, the Australian government seems to be doing the bare minimum,” said Elaine Pearson, Australia director at Human Rights Watch. “The government should demonstrate its commitment to rights protection and join with Canada, Germany, the UK, and the US and create an additional pathway for Afghans at risk.”

Australia’s first evacuation flight from Kabul, a C-130 with 128 seats, departed on August 18, 2021, with 29 Australian citizens, Afghan nationals with visas, and a foreign official on board. Morrison said this was the first of several flights, depending on security conditions.

That day, Morrison said that “we’ll be able to provide around 3,000 visas” to Afghan refugees resettling as part of the existing annual humanitarian intake;13,750 refugees from all countries. While Canada and the United Kingdom have agreed to additional intakes of 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan to deal with the crisis, “Australia is not going into that territory,” Morrison said. He rejected calls to allow Afghans in Australia on temporary visas, who number at least 4,200, to be given a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship.

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