Mon. Aug 8th, 2022

More than 280 Australian citizens or permanent residents remain stranded in Afghanistan almost two months after the Taliban seized power in Kabul.

The figure was revealed by officials at a parliamentary session in Canberra this afternoon.

It includes at least 129 Australian citizens and 157 permanent residents who have registered with the federal government.

But officials also stressed that not all of the 286 people wanted to leave Afghanistan.

Simon Newnham of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) said during the hearing that many were unwilling to travel because they were still trying to get visas for family members that they wanted to take with them.

Officials also said they had been hit by a huge increase in applications for protection in the last seven weeks, with around 26,000 Afghans applying to the Australian government for humanitarian visas.

A crowd watches Kabul airport as evacuation flights leave
The government says it intends to allocate more than the current 3,000 seats in its humanitarian program to Afghan citizens.(AP: Shakib Rahmani)

They said that if you included the family members of those who had applied, the actual number was probably four times higher, with around 100,000 people seeking a safe haven in Australia.

So far, the government has formally allocated only 3,000 seats in Australia’s humanitarian program to Afghan citizens, although it has repeatedly signaled that it will soon announce seats to many more.

Several humanitarian organizations have pressured the government to commit to a further humanitarian intake of at least 20,000 Afghans.

An ADF doctor watches an Afghan evacuate at Kabul's main airport on August 18, 2021.
Australia’s evacuation of citizens and permanent residents from Afghanistan has been considered a success by the DFAT.(AP: SGT Glen McCarthy / Australian Defense Force)

All of these sites come in addition to the 3,500 people who flew to Australia during the government’s evacuation mission from Kabul in August.

DFAT’s Daniel Sloper said that although the evacuation had been successful in demanding and dangerous circumstances, the government was “very aware” that other Australians and visa holders had been left behind.

Officials said they were still working to help these people get out of Afghanistan, but warned that the Taliban were “more and more interested” in those trying to leave.

They also stressed that it is still difficult to get out of Afghanistan.

Although there are now limited flights out of Kabul to both Iran and Pakistan, the schedule is still unpredictable, while crossing the border is still “risky and dangerous”.

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