Australia boosts help for Afghan arrivals

Australia is putting in place support programs for people fleeing Afghanistan.
Australia is putting in place support programs for people fleeing Afghanistan.

Afghan refugees resettled in Australia after the Taliban swept to power will receive support from a new panel of experts and community members.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said the advisory panel would play a critical role in supporting Afghan evacuees as they settle into Australian life.

"Many arrivals from Afghanistan, including women and children have endured experiences of torture and trauma," he said on Monday.

"We will be ensuring our support programs have the capacity to respond and aid their recovery from these experiences."

The government's initial priority will be providing support to people in quarantine and in subsequent weeks.

Mr Hawke said he would work with the panel to bolster local community organisations, legal services and trauma support.

"This is an incredibly distressing and challenging time for the evacuees and the Australian-Afghan community," he said.

Australia evacuated more than 4000 citizens, permanent residents and visa holders from Kabul during a nine-day rescue operation which ended last week.

Some 3000 humanitarian places out of Australia's existing intake have been set aside for Afghans seeking to flee the Taliban.

But the Morrison government has faced calls from charities, churches and human rights groups to take 20,000 people.

Humanitarian settlement expert Paris Aristotle and Commonwealth migrant services co-ordinator general Alison Larkins will co-chair the panel.

Half of the 12 members are from Australian-Afghan groups including two from the Hazara community.

RSL national president Greg Melick called for veterans to assist Afghans settling into a new life in Australia.

He said the RSL provided similar assistance to Vietnamese refugees in the mid-1970s.

"These Afghan families who have supported or have associations with Australia, have escaped a tragic situation in their home country and many will be traumatised and in fragile mental conditions," Mr Melick said.

"ADF veterans will have some understanding of this, and they can now return some of the support they received in Afghanistan."

Meanwhile, Labor criticised the Morrison government's timing in evacuating people from Afghanistan where the US has conducted a second airstrike targeting Islamic State.

A drone strike has killed a suicide car bomber who Pentagon officials said was preparing to strike Kabul airport.

Scores of Afghan civilians trying to flee the Taliban and 13 US troops died in twin attacks last week, triggering American retaliation.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said it was a perilous situation with the potential of more terrorist attacks.

"I do think it is disappointing that the government did not listen to the many calls to get people out earlier," she told the ABC on Monday.

"We saw the veteran community very vocal in calling on the government to act, to bring out those who have helped us."

US officials said the latest strike targeted suspected militants from ISIS-K, a local affiliate of Islamic State that claimed responsibility for last week's attacks.

Australian Associated Press