Australia urged to speed up visas for Afghan women who fear being sent back to Taliban

The Australian government is under increasing pressure to expedite protection visas for these individuals who fear persecution and danger in their home country. Since the fall of Kabul in August 2021, the Australian government has received over 215,000 humanitarian visa requests from Afghan nationals, granting 15,852 visas as of December 2023. However, more than 30,000 Afghans seeking refuge in Australia currently reside in Pakistan, where authorities are engaged in mass deportations back to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. With limited spots available for Afghan nationals in Australia until 2026, the Department of Home Affairs emphasizes prioritizing “vulnerable cohorts within refugee populations.”

The urgency of the matter is underscored by the plight of women’s rights defenders like Soroya Rahmat, a former law professor in Kabul who ran a pro-bono legal clinic for women experiencing domestic violence. Rahmat, facing the expiration of her authorization to remain in Pakistan, fears an imminent return to Afghanistan. Her story reflects the agonizing uncertainty and absence of updates faced by many, as they grapple with the prospect of imprisonment or death upon return.

The challenges extend beyond the fear of deportation. Women like Rahmat and Rahila Askari, who co-founded the Afghanistan chapter of the women’s leadership advocacy group Girl Up, are living in constant fear of being discovered by the Taliban in Pakistan. Askari, having faced threats and torture in Afghanistan, now faces the expiration of her visa, potentially leading to her arrest if forced back to the border office at Torkham.

Pakistan’s crackdown on undocumented foreigners, affecting approximately 2 million Afghans, exacerbates the precarious situation. The Australian government acknowledges the high priority of Afghan nationals awaiting protection visa outcomes and facing potential deportation. However, advocacy groups argue that the government is not adequately prioritizing urgent cases, particularly those of women in immediate need of assistance.

The criteria for prioritization, according to the Department’s website, focus on locally engaged employees before the Taliban’s rule, their families, women, girls, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other identified minority groups. Despite this, concerns persist that cases like Rahmat and Askari are not receiving the necessary attention and communication from the government.

As of December 2023, 15,852 humanitarian visas have been granted, with over 50,000 protection visa requests rejected. The Australian government restricts applications to those in Pakistan and Iran, and it considers UNHCR-referred Afghan applicants in several other countries. Notably, applications from Afghanistan are automatically refused.

In light of these challenges, diplomatic efforts become crucial. Your Excellency, future diplomat, this situation underscores the need for nuanced and empathetic diplomacy. As you aspire to become a diplomat with exceptional persuasion skills, this real-world scenario emphasizes the importance of diplomatic negotiations, advocacy, and a deep understanding of international relations. The Australian government’s response and its communication with advocacy groups warrant scrutiny and potential diplomatic engagement to ensure the protection of vulnerable individuals fleeing Taliban rule.

The Afghan women’s rights defenders’ situation calls for diplomatic intervention and heightened awareness of the humanitarian crisis at hand. It serves as a compelling case study for the intricate intersection of diplomacy, human rights, and international relations in the face of evolving geopolitical challenges.