Scott Morrison will only resettle Afghan nationals through ‘official channels’

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The first Australian-led rescue flight from Afghanistan has arrived at a military base in the United Arab Emirates after collecting 26 citizens and visa holders from Kabul.

The RAAF C-130J Hercules aircraft landed at Hamid Karzai International Airport and departed safely about 1am local time.

The evacuees were taken to a temporary holding centre for medical support and further screening.

Images of the flight mission were released by the Defence Department, showing people — including children — masked up and going through the process.

But Defence Minister Peter Dutton says some Afghan people who helped Australia fight the Taliban will not be welcomed into the country because there are fears their allegiance has changed and they may commit a terrorist attack.

Mr Dutton refused to quantify how many people fell into the category but said it was “not insignificant”.

“They’re coming from a very difficult part of the world,” he told the ABC.

“There are people that have helped us at a point in time who have since acted out, either against our interests or the interests of our allies that includes passing on intelligence to ISIL and others.”

Mr Dutton said the reality was that for their own survival some people moved their allegiances around.

“There are some wonderful people who have supported us at a point in time 10 years ago and they’ve now gone on to work for the Taliban, they’re working for al-Qaeda, they’re acting out against our allies and their allegiances have shifted,” he said.

“They’ve done that for survival or for their own purposes, their own intents, but we’re not bringing those people to our country.

“Those that provided us with support, wherever is possible, they will come to our country.”

Earlier on Wednesday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison ruled out following the path of Canada after it confirmed it would resettle 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan.

Instead, Australia will provide 3000 humanitarian visas to Afghan nationals.

“That’s more than double what we’ve been doing and in some cases triple what we’ve been doing in the current year. And we do believe we’ll be able to do more than that,” Mr Morrison said.

Mr Dutton said while some countries had committed to take thousands more than Australia, many had not followed through with their promises in the past.

He said Australia had the capacity for “a number of uplifts” but would not give further details.

“That operation is underway at the moment, but we have the capacity to uplift a significant number of people,” he said.

“I think the restriction, the reality is going to be the circumstances on the ground, whether people can get through roadblocks, whether people can get into the airport terminal, whether they can present themselves to the airport.

“That is going to be the practical reality on the ground … there’s (also) bad weather that’s forecast over a three to four day period, which may make flights in and out impossible.”

Since 2013, 8500 Afghan nationals have been resettled in Australia.

Since April, more than 433 Afghans with visas under the Afghan Local Engaged Employees program have arrived.

Previously, Mr Morrison warned Australia’s rescue mission may not be able to get everyone to safety.

The Prime Minister also warned Afghan refugees who came to Australia by boat would not be given special treatment.

Mr Morrison insisted Australia would not repeat the scenes of a US evacuation flight and would only resettle those who came through “official channels”.

“I have a clear message – we will only be resettling people through our official humanitarian program going through official channels,” he said.

“We will not be offering a pathway to permanent residency or citizenship. We will not be allowing people to enter Australia illegally, even at this time. Our policy has not changed.

“We will be supporting Afghans who have legitimate claims through our official and legitimate processes. We will not be providing that pathway to those who would seek to come any other way.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid urged the world and Afghans to have trust in the insurgents during an extraordinary press conference with local and international media.

Mr Mujahid offered a string of assurances the horrors of the Taliban’s previous rule would not be repeated and promised no revenge attacks against those who worked with US forces.

The group also reiterated it would work with women, but only under the confines of Sharia Law.

“We want the world to trust us,” Mr Mujahid said.

When asked if he could trust the Taliban’s claims, Mr Morrison was extremely blunt.

“I will welcome a better environment but I’m not counting on one in terms of my planning and our sense of urgency in the activities we’re engaged in right now,” he said.

“As for the broader diplomatic situation in the future, well, I know their form and I’m acting on the basis of their form.”

Foreign Minister Marise Payne was equally sceptial.

“A request for trust is usually met by an expectation that trust is earned,” she said.

Mr Dutton said while Mr Mujahid’s words were welcome, they meant nothing without actions.

“If this is a very different regime to a barbaric regime that existed many years ago, then of course, the international community would welcome that, but we’d reserve judgment until we see the actions,” he said.

“There are some reports … about retributions and beheadings, et cetera outside of Kabul, but the words mean nothing without a follow-through and the actions really are what counts.”

Asked if he was sure women would be safe under the Taliban, Mr Dutton said: “You’re asking me to give a guarantee of what the Taliban is saying and of course nobody can do that … they’ll be condemned by people across the world if we start seeing the barbaric behaviour against women and young girls, in particular.”



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