As Australia works to evacuate citizens and visa holders from Kabul, it has also launched an advertising campaign to stop Afghan refugees from reaching Australia by boat, promising that they will have “zero chance of success”.
“Australia’s strict border protection policies have not changed and will not change,” said Karen Andrews, the Australian Home Secretary, in a 30-second video uploaded Monday to a government YouTube channel. “No one who arrives illegally in Australia will ever settle here. Do not take an illegal boat trip to Australia. You have zero chance of success.”
The message is a reminder of the country’s strict stance on asylum seekers and an offshore detention policy that has drawn much criticism from human rights groups in recent years. The video message is the latest in a series the government has been making since 2013 to discourage attempts to reach Australia by sea.
In an emailed statement, Ms Andrews reiterated that people arriving by boat will not be resettled to Australia.
“The Australian government has granted more than 8,500 visas to Afghans as part of the Australian Humanitarian Program since 2013,” she said. “These people have arrived legally, with a valid visa issued by the Australian government.”
Australia has committed to include 3,000 Afghan refugees within its existing annual humanitarian visa allocation, excluding Afghans employed by the Australian government who are eligible for other visas. Prime Minister Scott Morrison suggested last week that this number could be increased, calling it “a floor, not a ceiling”.
The government has said it will not ask Afghans already in Australia on visas to return to their home countries as long as the situation there remains tense.
The video follows controversy last weekend when Australian news outlets reported that more than 100 Afghans who worked as security guards at the Australian embassy in Kabul had been turned down for a special visa and told to “contact a migration agent” because they were contractors and were not directly employed by the embassy.
Hours after it was reported, the government said the workers had been approved for humanitarian visas.
On Monday, Mr Morrison said 470 Australians, Afghan visa holders and citizens of allied countries had been evacuated overnight on Australian flights from Kabul to Australia’s military base in the United Arab Emirates. He said this brought the total number of people evacuated from Kabul by Australian troops with the help of troops from the United States and Britain to more than 1,000.
A repatriation flight from the UAE also landed in Melbourne, carrying 175 people evacuated from Afghanistan. That followed another flight that landed in Perth on Friday, with 94 people on board.