The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan has propelled an influx of emails and messages to be sent to SBS from people looking for help and wanting to share their stories.
Varying requests for assistance have come through formal audience relations channels and stories are also being shared with SBS via other channels including social media.
Messages range from short statements from people saying they are in danger, to requests for assistance with humanitarian visa applications to be able to leave the country. Some also include identification details about the person and their families.
SBS cannot assist with immigration advice and is in response providing official Australian government contact information. It is also working with the SBS Radio teams to communicate this message in languages other than English when required.
An SBS spokesperson said on Friday: “In recent days, we’ve seen a significant spike in people contacting SBS sharing their personal stories and seeking assistance to leave Afghanistan”.
“We are being approached in a range of ways, including being contacted in the Afghan languages of Pashto and Dari, and have been working with those SBS Radio teams to also respond in those languages, providing information about how to contact the Australian government for urgent consular assistance.”
More than 160 Australians and Afghans with Australian visas have now been evacuated from Kabul after a third rescue flight departed chaos at the airport overnight.
“The Australian government is establishing flight options for Australian citizens, permanent residents, and immediate family members, who are seeking to depart the country,” a statement on the Department of Home Affairs website says.
“We are also working in partnership with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Defence to ensure that Afghan citizens who are eligible for Australia’s protection are processed and resettled as a priority.”
SBS often receives requests from people impacted by global events, the SBS spokesperson said. A recent example, while not of the same volume, included an increase in people seeking help to return to Australia from India during a peak in COVID-19 cases.
“SBS is providing extensive coverage of unfolding events and their impacts across its platforms to keep Australians informed about the situation in Afghanistan, and the reaction and response around the world, including from Australia,” the spokesperson said.
“We are also playing an important role in providing coverage for the local Afghan community, and sharing their voices and perspectives through our coverage.”
Where to seek help
“Australian citizens, permanent residents and Australian visa holders should go to Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport, if you’re able to do so safely, for a planned evacuation flight,” the latest advice on the Australian government’s Smart Traveller website states, noting “the Australian government cannot ensure safe passage to the airport”.
They must also make sure they have registered with DFAT at covid19.dfat.gov.au.
Australians in need of consular assistance can also contact the Australian government 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on 1300 555 135 in Australia or +61 2 6261 3305 outside Australia.
For Locally Engaged Employees (LEEs) who have supported Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, as well as various visa holders or visa applicants, the Department of Home Affairs has provided this update on Afghanistan on its website.
“If you are in Afghanistan, or you are an Afghan national, and need to enquire about a visa or citizenship application contact +61 2 6196 0196,” it states.