Australia grants visas for 500 Afghans


Sydney -

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A woman reads a newspaper containing an advertisement (right) publicising the Australian government's new policy on asylum-seekers arriving by boat, in Sydney. File picture: David Gray

Australia has granted refugee visas to more than 500 Afghans for their help during its mission in the war-torn nation, saying their safety would be jeopardised by remaining in the country.

The Afghan nationals, mainly interpreters, were resettled with their families in late 2013 and early 2014, the government revealed in a statement late on Sunday.

“Many of these employees were placed at significant risk of harm by insurgents in Afghanistan, due to the highly visible and dangerous nature of their employment,” Defence Minister David Johnston said.

He added that it had been imperative for the government to deal with the process discreetly, given the risks involved, which is why Canberra had not commented on their fate before now.

Immigration Minister Scott Morrison called their resettlement a “significant achievement”.

“This policy reflects Australia's fulfillment of its moral obligation to those who provided invaluable support to Australia's efforts in Afghanistan,” he said.

The last Australian combat troops left Afghanistan in December, marking the end of the nation's longest war which left 40 of its soldiers dead.

Canberra first committed soldiers to Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. - Sapa-AFP

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