The first evacuees from Afghanistan have arrived in Perth as Australia continues a complex rescue operation in the wake of the Taliban takeover of Kabul.
The flight from Dubai arrived in the early hours of Friday and around 90 evacuees on board were loaded onto buses for transfer to hotel quarantine.
A large contingent of federal and state police were on hand to greet them, The West Australian newspaper reported.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said federal officials were working with the WA government to ensure the evacuees received medical and mental health support.
“This has been a difficult and distressing ordeal for many of the evacuees and we will help them through completing the mandatory 14 day quarantine,” Mr Morrison said.
WA has agreed to take in the passengers above the state’s weekly quarantine arrivals cap.
Federal and state police were on hand when the evacuation flight landed in Perth overnight, The West Australian newspaper reported.
Other states will also be asked to help as the evacuation program continues.
Afghan nationals who worked with Australia during the war are being urged to quickly flag their hopes of being airlifted out of Taliban territory.
Australia’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has told SBS News anyone with certified paperwork proving they worked as interpreters, translators and in other roles with Australia need to act now.
“If anyone has certification, I would encourage them to come forward immediately,” Mr Hawke said. “Obviously time is short.”
Mr Hawke’s comments also show the federal government is considering the situations of Afghans who have certification documents but may not have been granted a visa.
Staff who worked with Australia during its 20-year wartime commitment can apply for a Locally Engaged Employee (LEE) visa, but certification is the initial step in the Australian government’s process for allowing visa applications to be lodged.
After the initial fatal chaos on the tarmac, the United States has secured Kabul’s international airport for now and is hopeful the window for evacuation flights can remain open until the end of the month.
On Thursday, a further 76 Australian citizens and Afghans with protection visas were airlifted out of the Afghan capital to a base in the United Arab Emirates.
Another 40 Australian Defence Force personnel and provisions were also flown into Kabul to help with the rescue mission.
The latest evacuation adds to 26 people extracted from Kabul during the first flight.
Mr Morrison said weather and security issues were presenting challenges.
“We are moving as quickly as we can.”
Australia is working to establish its own staging area at Hamid Karzai International Airport.
The government has defended offering 3,000 humanitarian places to Afghans fleeing the Taliban despite other nations pledging intakes more than six times that figure.
Afghans approved for the LEE visas and brought to Australia will not be counted in the 3,000 places for Afghan nationals carved out of the existing humanitarian intake this financial year.
Mr Hawke expects the initial commitment could rise to 5,000 as the situation unfolds in Afghanistan.
World Vision is among groups calling on Australia to create an additional 20,000 humanitarian visas for people fleeing Afghanistan.
More than 300 organisations have signed an open letter saying the government has a moral duty to the Afghan people.
Red Cross has launched a public appeal for funds to provide health care and other humanitarian aid in Afghanistan, as well as support communities in Australia to locate and reconnect with missing family in Afghanistan caught up in the crisis.
“Afghanistan is one of the world’s most fragile states. We know that humanitarian needs will remain high and are likely to increase,” Australian Red Cross’ Adrian Prouse said.
With SBS News