Afghan security guards who worked at the Australian embassy in Kabul have now been told they will have access to evacuation flights from Afghanistan.
The confirmation from Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews came after more than 100 former security guards had initially received rejection letters from the Australian government.
The Afghan nationals have since been told they would be considered for “humanitarian visas” instead of a special refugee visa reserved for former Afghan staff who worked with Australia.
Ms Andrews has now clarified confusion around their status saying the security guards with approved visas will have access to evacuation flights.
“There have been a significant number of emails that have been sent out, advising people that they have been granted a 449 visa and that they should make their way to the gate,” Ms Andrews told reporters in Canberra.
“Those that guarded the embassy were certainly people that we were very mindful of. “
The security guards have initially been granted 449 visas, which are temporary humanitarian visas to stay in Australia.
Evacuation flights from Kabul continue
More than 470 people were evacuated from Kabul on four Australian Defence Force flights on Sunday and taken to the Al Minhad Airbase near Dubai for processing.
The passengers included Australians, Afghan nationals and UK citizens.
A second flight from the United Arab Emirates has also now arrived in Melbourne, bringing 175 people evacuated from Kabul to Australia.
Those intending to flee Afghanistan’s capital have faced Taliban gunfire and violence at densely crowded airport checkpoints amid concerns the dangerous journey is preventing some Australians from being evacuated.
Ms Andrews said Australia is working with partners from the US-led coalition on the ground in Kabul to ensure as many people could be uplifted as possible.
“The situation on the ground in Kabul in particular, but more broadly across Afghanistan, continues to deteriorate and deteriorate very rapidly,” Ms Andrews said.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said Australian Defence Force troops cannot go beyond the tarmac at the Hamid Karzai International Airport because it is too dangerous.
Ms Andrews declined to put a figure on the number of people seeking to come to Australia, indicating this is changing “by the hour”.
“There is a significant number,” she said.
“I don’t want to put a figure on it at the moment because it is changing almost by the hour – as more people are seeking to come to Australia.”
US President Joe Biden has now indicated he might extend the initial 31 August deadline for evacuations from Kabul.
“Our hope is we will not have to extend. But there are going to be discussions, I suspect, on how far along we are in the process,” he told reporters.