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July 02, 2021

Reports today that Australia has completed its formal withdrawal from Afghanistan highlight the urgency for the Federal Government to fast-track the visas of the interpreters and staff that worked with our troops and diplomats.

In many cases, these people wore Australian uniforms and helped keep our defence personnel safe when they were deployed overseas, at great risk to themselves.

Afghan interpreters were vital to Australia’s operations over the last 20 years and the Morrison Government has a moral obligation to protect them.

While we understand a small group of interpreters have had their visas approved, there are hundreds of interpreters and local staff seeking Australia’s protection.

It is particularly disturbing that today we learnt that Mr Morrison is giving tens of thousands of visas to unvaccinated tourists and business people to come to Australia, but the Government is still not expediting visas for Afghan interpreters whose lives are at risk.

Surely these Afghan interpreters, who wore Australian uniforms alongside Australian soldiers, should be at the top of the visa processing list, not at the bottom.

Labor has requested a briefing on the situation the Afghan interpreters and staff find themselves in, with increasing reports of direct threats against their safety by the Taliban.

Labor is seeking answers from the Government on how many local staff remain, how many have applied for visas and been granted, and what the Morrison Government will do to help those who are left.

While every case must be considered on its individual merits, the Morrison Government must not allow any further delays of the processing of these visas.

Many veterans have said this issue is exacerbating their existing trauma because they see it as leaving their mates behind.

Expediting the processing of these visas is also in our national interest as neglecting these interpreters now will compromise our capacity in future conflicts and in peacekeeping operations to recruit local staff as interpreters.

The Morrison Government needs to ensure the safety of these people and their families, and see their visas processed without delay.