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From persecution to protection and the purgatory in between

  • 28 October 2021
Mark Twain is reported to have said ‘history does not repeat, it rhymes.’ Watching a US helicopter evacuating people from the US Embassy in Kabul, that was rhyming. Many have seen this picture before, 30 April 1975, but then it was Saigon. The massive confusion, mixed messages, terrified people, lack of human rights protection happened in 1975, and still happens in 2021.

Sadly, one of the first responses from Australia regarding possible refugee flows was that no one who came by boat, ‘illegally’ (the term incorrectly used by Government, given it is not an offence to arrive without a visa, it just has a consequence – detention under s189), will be settled permanently in Australia. However, a number of Afghans were offered and granted the temporary humanitarian visa known as the Safe Haven Visa subclass 449.

The 449 visa is quick to issue because there is no application process, just an invitation by the Government to someone under regulation 2.07AC. A detailed statement of protection claims or detailed interviews and processing is not needed. It is an effective emergency tool, but there is a serious cloud that surrounds the 449 silver lining. More on that later.

The situation on the ground in Kabul at the airport was chaotic, but at least some people were able to escape. The evacuations stopped on the deadline, but now there are discussions about what can be done for the Afghans who are in need of protection but were not rescued.

The Taliban have no incentive to be cooperative, they have their own agenda. Up until recently the US and Australians were in a serious war with them. In September 1996, the Taliban captured Kabul the first time, and not only killed and persecuted those they did not agree with, but sought to wipe away ‘destructive western influences.’ They literally hung TV sets and video tapes over poles, in the streets, music was banned, women were restricted in their movements and had to wear the blue burqa over their whole body. Kite flying was also banned.

Now we have Taliban 2.0, or so their propaganda arm on twitter wants us to believe. This fake marketing effort does not convince the Afghan people, especially the Hazaras. They know that the Taliban oppressors of 1996 have not changed much in 25 years. The Taliban are just more determined.

'The harsh reality in a war zone is that only a minority will ever find