Not a simple job: first Aussie rescue flight out of Kabul had just 26 aboard

Australia will ramp up rescue flights from Afghanistan after its first successful journey extracted more than 20 people from the war-torn nation.

Aug 18, 2021, updated Aug 18, 2021
Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaks to the media during a press conference at Parliament House. (AAP Image/Lukas Coch)

A RAAF C-130 Hercules successfully evacuated people from Kabul airport, which was engulfed in chaos earlier in the week.

The flight brought 26 people to the United Arab Emirates – where the Australian military is based for the operation – ahead of their transfer to Australia.

Australian citizens, Afghan nationals who have been granted visas and one foreign official working with an international agency were among the passengers.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said efforts to extract Australians and Afghans who helped allied forces over the past two decades would ramp up in subsequent flights.

“This is not a simple process,” he told reporters in Canberra.

“It’s very difficult for any Australian to imagine the sense of chaos and uncertainty that is existing across this country, the breakdown in formal communications, the ability to reach people.”

Regular flights are scheduled in coming days but poor weather forecast may hamper evacuation efforts.

Cabinet’s national security committee is meeting daily to discuss getting people out of Afghanistan, which is now under Taliban control.

Morrison has conceded not all Afghans who helped Australia would be rescued as part of the operation.

The first flight dropped off key foreign affairs, home affairs and defence personnel working to evacuate Australians and Afghan nationals.

The prime minister would not be drawn on reports of a skirmish at Kabul airport during the rescue effort.

“Kabul’s a dangerous place,” he said.

“We’ve got Australians operating in a very dangerous environment to get their fellow Australians and those who have helped our cause over a long period of time.”

Australia will provide 3000 humanitarian visas this financial year to Afghan refugees desperately trying to flee the Taliban.

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That will come from the existing intake, rather than a special allocation, and is below other nations’ commitments.

Canada has offered resettlement to more than 20,000 people at risk and the United States is accelerating its visa application process.

In 2015, the Abbott government granted 12,000 humanitarian visas to people in Syria on top of Australia’s regular humanitarian program.

Morrison said Australia would only offer visas through official channels after security and health checks.

“Those who have not come to Australia in the right way and on temporary visas in Australia, they will not be offered permanent residence in Australia,” he said.

Australia has been accepting between 1300 and 1900 Afghans on humanitarian grounds in recent years.

Refugee advocate Paris Aristotle, who advised the government on the Syrian intake, will work with Immigration Minister Alex Hawke on the program.

Australia has not been meeting its humanitarian visa caps because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since April, 430 Afghans who helped allied forces during the two-decade war and their families have been brought to Australia.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said any decision to recognise the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan would be subject to international talks.

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