Voices in Canberra's Afghan community are calling on the government to ramp up evacuation numbers in order to save lives as the September "red line" deadline nears.
An international effort is underway to evacuate remaining military personnel and at-risk civilians in Afghanistan's capital of Kabul as the Taliban solidifies its stronghold over the country.
Under a peace deal signed with the Taliban early last year, the United States, along with its allies, agreed to fully withdraw from the country by the end of August.
Just six days remain for evacuations to take place before the Islamist insurgents regain control nearly two weeks after the capital first fell to them.
Thousands of Afghans who helped Australian and coalition forces, many of which have received visas to leave the country, have raced to Kabul's airport to catch a flight out.
Mohammad Jaffari, an executive committee member of Canberra's Hazara community group, said the short window was closing and the Australian government needed to do a lot more.
The Australian Defence Force's efforts so far have rescued nearly 2500 people from the Central Asian country, including 750 from Kabul on Wednesday.
But many more lives were at risk and Mr Jaffari said the government needed to assist those who had helped Coalition forces and were high on the Taliban's target list.
"Our focus should be on this short window we have - we can use this window to save lives," he said.
"Just get them out of the country and then you can sort out what you want to do with them."
It comes as humanitarian and refugee lawyers are claiming some Afghan civilians have been turned away at the airport despite presenting adequate documentation.
Human rights advocate Dr Kay Danes said Australian Embassy security guards had not been allowed in the airport by authorities against advice offered by the Foreign Affairs Department.
DFAT and ADF continue to refuse to allow our visa holding Australian Embassy Security guards and contractors and their families inside the airport for evacuation. They have been standing in waste high water filled with piss and shit since 10pm last night. @KarenMMiddletonpic.twitter.com/ZOYxu2Zt6T— Dr. Kay Danes, OAM (@KayDanes) August 25, 2021
But Finance Minister Simon Birmingham rejected claims there was conflicting advice on the ground in Kabul.
"We're not accepting the assertion that people are being turned away," he told parliament on Wednesday.
Community president Hussain Muhammad said his uncle was one of those at-risk in the Taliban-controlled capital. Despite his best efforts, he's been unable to expedite his uncle's case to get him to safety.
"[My uncle] served and worked very closely with the ADF," he said.
"Now he's changing his position from one place to the next so that the Taliban can't find him."
The community members have shared concerns with local Labor MPs but have yet to hear from the government.
Canberra federal Labor politicians, Andrew Leigh, Alicia Payne and David Smith, said they were working to put the pressure on government but needed Prime Minister Scott Morrison to step up and get people out.
"As local MPs, we are deeply concerned about the stability of Afghanistan and we urge the Morrison government to work with international partners to help support efforts to get people out," they said in a statement.
Ms Payne said the government also needed to increase the humanitarian intake and expedite family visas in response to the unfolding crisis.
"Many people have been waiting up to five years for family visas to be approved and because of the government's delay, they are now in this urgent and terrifying situation," she said.
"As local members we are doing our best to help these people but ultimately the government needs to commit to a far higher refugee and humanitarian visa intake and prioritise the processing of partner and family visas of Afghan Australians with the urgency it deserves."
The Canberra Times asked Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne and Foreign Affairs Department to confirm whether plans were underway to drastically increase its humanitarian visa intake in response to the situation in Afghanistan.
The government has said it offered an additional 3000 humanitarian places for Afghan nationals within the annual 13,750-person program.
Neither responded in time for publication.
While Mr Jaffari said those were important aspects of Australia's response, they could be considered later.
For now, it was a race to stop atrocities from happening.
He said the Taliban had already began cutting off communication between Afghan communities and the outside world.
Once the coalition and media was gone, Mr Jaffari said no one would be left to report what the Taliban do.
"You cannot say, 'Oh, we didn't know, we didn't know'," he said.
"Let's save lives, as many as we can, so when we look back a year from now we can say we did whatever we could.
"At least that can give us a bit of peace."
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