Labor wants haven visas for Afghan workers

·2-min read

Labor has demanded the federal government grant protection visas for Afghan subcontractors who fear being killed under resurgent Taliban rule.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne is being urged to fast-track applications from interpreters, contractors and security guards who fear for their lives.

People employed as subcontractors have reportedly been denied access to visas for locally engaged workers.

Opposition foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said the nation had a moral obligation to help those who assisted Australian troops.

"There's no grey area as far as the Taliban are concerned, they don't care if the person who has helped Australia has helped them as a direct employee or as an employee of a contractor," she told Sky News.

"When Marise Payne uses that description to deny assistance, I just think that is ethically wrong and it is also wrong from a national security perspective."

Taliban fighters have been advancing across the country in recent weeks after Australia and the United States end two decades of involvement in Afghanistan.

Senator Wong said Australia needed to protect its reputation to ensure locals in other conflict zones would help troops on the ground.

"We are well behind where the US is, we are well behind where the United Kingdom is and we should be doing more," she said.

"It is something not only the Afghans are saying, but many returned soldiers who served with them."

Liberal MP Phillip Thompson, who served in Afghanistan, acknowledged subcontractors were "two parts removed" but wants to offer safety to those who helped during the war.

He believes there needs to be robust character assessments in place.

Australia has granted more than 230 visas to Afghans including family members of local workers since April 15.

Former defence minister Linda Reynolds, who remains in cabinet, denied Afghans who worked with Australian forces were being abandoned to near-certain death due to bureaucratic complications and delays.

"Nothing could be further from the truth," she told ABC radio.

Senator Reynolds said Afghan support staff had been brought to safety in Australia over several years, but acknowledged there was a renewed sense of urgency to process their applications.

"They have sped up the process but nonetheless there still is a process that must be gone through," she said.

"The foreign minister and the defence minister are working very hard to make sure we bring them to Australia."

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