Afghan-Australian family fears for child stranded in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan

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A family in Canberra has pleaded with the government to help reunify them with their 17-year-old son currently in hiding in Kabul, saying he will be a target for the Taliban.

The family are members of Afghanistan’s Hazara community – an ethnic and religious minority that has faced systemic persecution by the Taliban for generations.

But with Australia and its allies now out of the country, and the Taliban in near total control, there are few options for escape.

“He is in that city all alone,” his father told the Guardian. “Now that the Taliban have captured Kabul, he is very worried, very scared.”

The father fled Afghanistan in 2010, after being threatened by the Taliban because the insurgents believed his trucking company was working alongside American and other coalition forces. He arrived in Australia by boat and his claim for refugee protection was formally recognised in 2011.

But for refugees who arrived by boat, reunification with family is notoriously difficult.

Under ministerial direction, applications for family reunification from refugees who arrived by boat are given “the lowest priority” by the Department of Home Affairs. Effectively they are put at the back of the queue and can languish for years.

However, the father applied for and was approved for reunification with his family. His wife and six of his children were granted visas and arrived in Australia in 2017, after seven years apart.

However, one son was refused a visa to Australia – because he was adopted.

Customary adoption is common across Afghanistan, where extended multi-generational families are prevalent and maternal mortality is high. Orphaned infants are immediately adopted within family groups. The teenager’s birth mother died in childbirth and he was adopted by her sister, his mother now.

Importantly, customary adoption is legally recognised under Australian migration law.

The family’s lawyer, Gregory Rohan from the Immigration Advice and Rights Centre, said the teenager’s visa refusal was an error, one that had devastated his family and now risked his life.

“The visa should not have been refused in the first place: he meets the criteria for the grant of the visa. It was a decision that was wrong in law and created this situation: a family that has been separated for such a long time and may never be able to see each other again.”

Since 2017, the teenager had lived with another family member in a Pashtun-dominated suburb of Kabul. Late last year, with the US withdrawal from Afghanistan approaching, those extended family members were able to secure visas to flee over the border to Iran. He was again left behind.

He has been living by himself for nearly a year in Kabul, as the city grew increasingly dangerous and finally, just over a fortnight ago, fell to the Taliban.

“The area that we live in is surrounded by Taliban on all four sides,” his father, who has been approved for Australian citizenship, says. “It is a Pashtun area, 99% of people there are Pashtun, so identifying a Hazara child, who is by himself, is very easy for them.”

The father pleaded with the Australian government to help rescue his son from Afghanistan, “so he can unite with the rest of his family in Australia”. He said he did not know how his son would be able to leave the country: even attempting to leave the city of Kabul, his home suburb or travelling to the airport posed a significant security risk.

“I hope that the Australian government can help the deprived Afghan Hazara people from the tyranny the Taliban will bring. Even if they can rescue one Hazara child, any Hazara… please help them.” (Source: The Guardian)

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