No forsaking Afghanistan a year on: Senate

·3-min read

Australia's first Afghan Muslim woman in parliament has called on the nation not to forsake Afghanistan a year on from the fall of the capital Kabul to the Taliban.

Senator Fatima Payman's father arrived in Australia after fleeing the Taliban in 1999, and 23 years later the first hijab-wearing parliamentarian spoke of the perils of allowing a resurgent Taliban to strip the rights of the Afghan people.

"Every day my office hears from those with loved ones trying to flee the Taliban or from those who have been hunted," she told the Senate.

"I cannot describe the insurmountable pain and misery we hear day after day.

"I too have family back in Afghanistan and receive daily news of the atrocities and injustices that take place while their lives remain in danger and their children remain stranded."

The Senate on Monday reaffirmed Australia's commitment to helping those who assisted operations during the war to find safe harbour, and pledged to continue efforts to resettle refugees at home.

It also called on the Taliban to "stand by its commitment to uphold the rights of all Afghans, including women, girls and minority groups; and not allow Afghanistan to become a safe haven for terrorist organisations and their support networks".

Foreign Minister Penny Wong chastised the Taliban for stripping the freedoms of the Afghan people, especially with regards to women and children.

"While the Taliban double down on repression, they have been negligent in providing the most basic services to the people of Afghanistan amidst a severe and deepening humanitarian crisis," she told the Senate.

"Australia will continue to speak up for the human rights of Afghans."

The opposition leader in the Senate Simon Birmingham called on the Taliban to honour the commitments they made about the rights and freedoms that would be afforded, especially to women and girls.

"We, like those friends and allies around the world who value democracy, freedom and human rights, especially the rights of women and girls, remain committed to working ... to respond to the humanitarian needs of the people of Afghanistan," he said.

"We stand with Afghanistan. We stand with the people of Afghanistan.

"We must and will remain steadfast in our determination to see the people of Afghanistan achieve their hopes for a peaceful, free future of opportunity and equality."

The federal government is pushing to clear a visa backlog from Afghanistan after more than 40,000 applications were lodged, covering over 211,000 people .

Senator Payman told the chamber she was heartened by the government's work to expedite visa processing.

"We understand the urgency and nature of this crisis and we in Australia are doing our best," she said.

"There is also important work to be done in our platform like giving genuine refugees permanent protection in this country and moving them off the cruel temporary protection visa scheme."

More than 39,000 defence force personnel and civilians were deployed to Afghanistan over Australia's 20-year involvement and 41 service people were killed.

Liberal senator Linda Reynolds, a former defence minister and Army Reserve brigadier, called for the support of returned veterans.

"Tragically, we lost 41 Australian service personnel who came home in coffins, so grieving families and as a nation we will always commemorate their service," she said.

'"Two hundred and sixty Australians returned home seriously wounded, and many thousands more returned home with injuries that weren't as visible, mental health issues still with them today.

"They made a lasting and enduring difference and I hope that all of our service personnel, the 39,000, will remember that."