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Defence forces unable to operate past Taliban’s Kabul airport barricades, Prime Minister warns

By abc.net.au , in News Australia , at August 20, 2021 Tags: , , ,


Australia news

The Taliban has control of access to Kabul airport and defence forces are unable to assist people outside of it as militant forces sweep through the city, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has warned. 

Another 60 Australians and Afghans were rescued from Kabul airport overnight, bringing the total evacuated by Australia to 162.

Ninety-four of those people were brought to Australia from a Middle Eastern airbase, and landed in Perth early this morning.

The group of diplomats, Afghan interpreters and others will now enter hotel quarantine for a fortnight.

A bus outside a hotel in Perth with two Afghan women getting off the vehicle and a man wearing full PPE standing in front of it.
The first Australians and Afghans rescued from Kabul airport by the RAAF arrived in Perth early this morning.(

AAP: Richard Wainwright

)

Australians desperately trying to enter Kabul airport told the ABC they were forced to flee after the Taliban fired into the air, threw smoke bombs and beat people attempting to enter.

“The situation in Kabul does remain chaotic, we remain in constant messaging and contact when we are able,” Mr Morrison said.

“Operations of Australian Defence Force or others who are there beyond the airport are not possible.

“They are not able to be undertaken in any way by the Australian Defence Forces — to do so would put them at great risk with no commensurate benefit.”

Women and their children flee through a street in Kabul.Women and their children flee through a street in Kabul.
The Taliban has established checkpoints throughout Kabul, including to enter the airport.(

Reuters

)

Foreign Minister Marise Payne indicated some Australians or visa holders had been injured in the chaos around the airport, although she did not say how many people had been hurt or how serious their injuries were.

“Thousands of people are crowding around entrances to the airport and unfortunately there have been injuries as well,” she said.

“We’ve had to address some of those among our passenger cohorts.”

Within the airport, Mr Morrison said Australia had been able to strengthen its position in order to evacuate more people.

He said larger numbers of Taliban, including its leaders, were now moving into the city.

Earlier, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the Australian government would not be able to evacuate all Australians and Afghans seeking to escape Kabul.

“Not everyone will be able to get out, and sometimes people have extended family that four or five years ago might have chosen to stay but now need to leave,” Mr Hawke said.

“We have an urgent and desperate situation.

“We will do what we can.”

Pressure to increase humanitarian intake of Afghans

The government has agreed to resettle 3,000 Afghans using existing places within its annual humanitarian immigration intake, with Mr Morrison describing the number as a “floor, not a ceiling”.

Government MP John Alexander joined calls for Australia to offer thousands more places for people fleeing Afghanistan.

“We agreed to accept 12,000 additional refugees from Syria over and above our annual refugee quota in 2015. If we can accept 12,000 from Syria, we can certainly accept more than that for our brothers and sisters now suffering in Afghanistan,” he said.

“Security should always be paramount, but we can do both, we can accept additional refugees and retain acceptable security protocols.”

This morning the Australian head of the Catholic bishops conference, archbishop Mark Coleridge said another 17,000 places should be offered.

“Australia has stepped up before in response to significant humanitarian crises, and I urge your government to be generous,” Mr Coleridge said.

Australia’s agreement has been compared to the US and Canada, which both announced they would settle 20,000 Afghans.

There have been 430 Afghans who worked with Australian forces resettled since April this year.

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