A rescue flight with nearly 100 people from Afghanistan landed in Adelaide in the early hours of this morning.
- The plane from the UAE via Perth landed at. 04:00 ACST
- They have been transferred to Medi Hotels in Adelaide’s CBD to complete hotel quarantine
- SA’s premier says he hopes Australia will increase the number of humanitarian visas it offers
Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) aircraft flew into Adelaide Airport around 1 p.m. 04:00 ACST.
It flew from the United Arab Emirates (UAE), where the Afghans had fled to, and stopped briefly in Perth to hand over 48 people before flying on to southern Australia.
In Adelaide, 89 people left the tables.
Some of the Afghans on board assisted the Australian Defense Forces and embassy staff in Kabul and have been granted emergency protection visas.
“Some are Australian passport holders and Australian nationals, some are permanent residents … but some are in fact Afghan (sic) nationals, whom we have dealt with quickly with emergency visas to those who have worked with our defense forces, our embassy in Afghanistan, “said Senator Simon Birmingham.
ABC Radio Adelaide’s Spence Denny said he saw “young families, women and children” being transferred on buses.
Arrivals will now have a 14-day hotel quarantine, according to Australia’s COVID-19 rules for international travelers, at the Hotel Grand Chancellor in the CBD.
They will be prioritized within Australia’s existing annual refugee reception and will receive humanitarian visas, not permanent residence.
The Afghan Cultural Association of South Australia’s Behishta Anwar said she finally felt “there was a bit of happiness, a bit of a light” this morning.
“I know exactly how they feel because I was in their situation not long ago,” she said.
“I’m sure they’re looking forward to a good, secure future where they do not get hurt.
Anwar said she and others in the local Afghan community – including one who was a former ADF interpreter – would provide support to the newcomers.
She said once they had completed hotel quarantine, some of them would travel to be near family members living across Australia.
Mrs Anwar also encouraged anyone who would like to help to contact the association, which coordinates how best to help the newcomers.
“We are working on it to see how we can support in South Australia,” she said.
“We have a meeting today to see what we can do about it.”
Mrs Anwar, who herself came to Australia as a refugee, also received happy personal news overnight – her brother and his family arrived safely at Kabul airport.
“My brother, who is an Australian citizen, with his wife, who is pregnant, and their one-year-old son … they were finally able to get into the airport, where it is safe around the guards,” she said.
“Because they fire bullets and slip tear gas with a one-year-old and a pregnant lady, it was really dangerous, so it took them two and a half days to get there.”
SA Health ‘will provide support’
South Australian Police Commissioner Grant Stevens said the newcomers would be offered support.
“I think there would probably be a huge relief among them that they have managed to find their way to Australia,” he said.
“SA Health has a fairly intensive program to keep in touch with and monitor the well – being of people who are in media hotels.
He said that “the limited number of media hotel rooms available to us” also meant that it would slow things down for other people trying to fly into SA to meet the “urgent situation”.
“The international arrivals who are hoping to get into Adelaide, they may find that they are being slowed down a bit because of this,” he said.
Premier wants more humanitarian visas offered
However, South Australian Prime Minister Steven Marshall did not expect Afghan arrivals to affect the state’s media hotel capacity.
“If you go back six months ago, we had capacity for 600 a week, we took it down to 530, it’s now 265, so these 89 will be over 265, but it’s still well below the capacity we has entered into a contract, “he said.
More than 2,450 people have been evacuated from Kabul airport by Australia since the capital Kabul fell to the Taliban.
The federal government has pledged to resettle 3,000 Afghans fleeing the Taliban.
Marshall said he would like to see an increase in Australia’s intake of Afghans on humanitarian visas.
“I am pleased that we are increasing the number of humanitarian visas that we are giving to Afghanistan,” he said.
Senator Birmingham said states have agreed to increase their international arrival ceilings to address the emergency.
“To date, there have been no positive COVID cases.”
The rescue flight arrived just after US President Joe Biden confirmed that the US 20-year presence in Afghanistan would end in a week.
Sir. Biden said more than 70,000 people had been evacuated from Afghanistan since August 14.