Afghan employees sent pleading letter to Australian government

By Tom Ravlic

Monday August 16, 2021

Scott Morrison-Marise Payne
Scott Morrison and other key members of the government have received a four-page letter from former Afghan employees who worked at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan. (AAP Image/Mick Tsikas)

Former Afghan employees who worked at the Australian embassy in Afghanistan sent a four-page letter to the Australian government pleading to be taken out of harm’s way only days before the Taliban’s return to power in Kabul.

The August 11 letter, which is addressed to Prime Minister Scott Morrison and other key members of the government, details the administrative obstacles they faced in communication with the bureaucracy in Canberra as well as the growing fears for their own lives and the safety of their families.

It also reveals that the government has not responded to reports sent about two incidents targeting former guards and staff – a shooting and a Taliban kidnapping – that the letter notes have “seriously compromised the security of our members and immediate families”.

Representatives for the locally engaged Afghan guards and staff also state in the letter that they approached but were unable to get assistance from the Kabul project office of their employer, GardaWorld, in relation to the special humanitarian visa process.

The release of the letter comes as the Australian government and the governments of other countries are scrambling to get their diplomats, embassy staff and locally engaged personnel out of Afghanistan after the Taliban swept across the entire country.

The prime minister told a press conference held over the weekend that the government was monitoring the situation, but he was unable to detail precisely what the full details of the government’s attempts to extricate former embassy guards and staff and their families because of security concerns.

This most recent letter is one of a series sent in recent months by the former guards and staff pleading for an urgent assessment of their security and immigration status.

Previously attempts to outline their plight sent to federal government departments, according to the most recent letter, did not get an adequate response.

“A copy of the governments’ response was not sent to the nominated advocates as requested. As workers who have served your diplomatic mission, and people under clear threat of persecution by terrorists in a war zone, we require that you review this correspondence and provide a substantial response with respect to the issues and questions raised,” the August 11 letter states.

The letter briefly describes a shooting and a kidnapping of a former guard and staffer and notes that incident reports sent to the government had received not response.

“Both incidents, particularly the latter, have seriously compromised the security of our members and immediate families,: the letter states. “We request that you conduct an immediate review of our security status and advise your intention for providing protection for our members and immediate families (all of whom have been vetted).”

Taliban operatives have been going from door to door looking for men who had been working for Western countries and some people had received letters threatening reprisals against them for working for Western governments.

“When found, these men and are being executed with knives, their wives are being made into whores, and their children are sold as sex slaves,” the letter states. “Our ‘threat statement’, as you put it, is graphically portrayed in the gruesome, savage footage you see in the international media every day as our abandoned nation collapses to terrorism.”

The letter ends with a demand for a response from the federal government by August 16 so that the guards and staff know whether the country would be evacuating them from Afghanistan or abandoning them.

“Since you closed the Australian Embassy Kabul on May 28th, we have been requesting your help. Our members, advocates, and legal representatives have made every effort to engage in dialogue with you to reach a solution for our protection and that of our immediate families,” the letter states.

“Your silence is degrading the morale of our members. Our situation is now critical. Our lives and those of our families are clearly at risk due to having served Australia’s mission in Afghanistan.”


READ MORE:

Time running out for Australia to do the right thing for locally engaged in Afghanistan

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