An Afghan refugee who has been held in Australia for more than eight years is calling for his release in a bid to return to Taliban-controlled Afghanistan and save his family after US troops withdraw from the war-torn country.
The refugee, who for the safety of his family can only be identified as FGS20, a pseudonym used in court proceedings, worked alongside coalition forces in Afghanistan after the US military invaded the country and overthrew the Taliban government in 2001.
As the armed group recaptured one Afghan city after another earlier this month, FGS20 applied for an emergency evacuation visa for his wife and four children.
Then, as the Taliban advanced on the Afghan capital, Kabul, FGS20 lawyers took the Australian government to court, seeking an urgent ruling.
But the government, led by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, said on Wednesday it would not be able to decide whether or not to grant subclass 203 emergency rescue visas until the United States withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan on August 31.
Increasingly desperate, the FGS20 said it made an official request on Thursday to “please” be returned to Afghanistan “immediately”, saying it “must travel tonight”.
However, the Australian government has not responded.
“[The] The Australian government wants to kill me here in custody, ”FGS20 said, referring to thoughts of suicide.
“And … the Australian government gave the Taliban a chance … to kill my family.”
“We have let down so many people in Afghanistan”
FGS20 fled Afghanistan in 2013 and arrived by boat in Australia, seeking asylum in the country with his family.
“I [thought] I [would spend] maybe a month or two months [in] detention, ”he said. “After two months, I have [would] go to [the] community [and] bring my family to a safe country.
Instead, he has been detained in Australia for over eight years. FGS20 spent the first six years of this period in a notorious offshore detention center on Manus Island in Papua New Guinea.
Then, in 2019, he was taken to Australia for medical treatment. Since then, he has been held in various detention centers and alternative places of detention (APOD) across the country.
Meanwhile, FGS20 said it lost 15 family members to the Taliban, including his brother.
“Every time I [heard I’d] lost a member of my family, “said FGS20,” I [couldn’t] do anything… nothing.
Jane Alcorn, an Australian citizen FGS20 calls her “Australian mom”, said she will never forget the day FGS20 lost her brother.
“I remember when he called me it was in the middle of the day and I was at the store,” Alcorn said. “I went to sit in the car because I couldn’t think clearly for a minute… I knew that [was] true, but I couldn’t really believe it … and [FGS20] was so, so sad, you can not imagine.
The Taliban, which took control of Kabul on August 15, offered a blanket amnesty to former government officials and pledged to respect women’s rights and media freedom. But there are already reports of Taliban fighters targeting people who have worked with US or NATO forces.
A confidential threat assessment prepare for the United Nations, on August 25, Taliban fighters went from house to house, set up checkpoints and threatened to arrest or kill relatives of “collaborators” in large cities.
Refugee lawyer and human rights defender Atika Hussain said Australia has a “moral obligation” to evacuate family members of Australian citizens and residents with or without visas.
This obligation extends to the family of FGS20, she said, because the protection he received as a refugee should morally extend to his immediate family now that the Taliban have taken control and that they are also in danger.
Australia’s rescue efforts have been unsuccessful, she argued, with evacuations starting too late and ending too early.
“We have let down so many people who are still in Afghanistan,” she said.
Morrison, the Prime Minister, said the Australian military had evacuated 4,100 people from Kabul, including 3,200 Australians and Afghan nationals on Australian visas.
The Australian airlift ended on Friday, shortly before an ISIS-affiliated Islamic State operative in Khorasan province, ISKP (ISIS-K) detonated its explosives outside the Kabul airport, killing more than 100 Afghan civilians who crowded the airfield in a desperate attempt to leave the country.
The Australian Human Rights Commission has “urged the government to consider expanding Australia’s resettlement program with specific input from Afghans.”
The commission recommended that the Australian government take in an additional 20,000 Afghan refugees, especially in light of the ISKP attack.
Al Jazeera has contacted the Home Office and the Australian Border Force to comment on the FGS20 case, but there has been no response at the time of publication.
Watching it all unfold from inside the Park Hotel in the Australian city of Melbourne, and unable to do anything about it, FGS20 said he was under immense pressure.
He now believes there is little hope of rescue for his family.
“My son asked me if you are not going to help me, you come back and [we will] die together, ”he told Al Jazeera. Her son is only 14 years old.
“Before America leaves, [the] Australian government must fire me [to Afghanistan],” he added.
After the withdrawal of the United States, “it’s over,” he said. “I [won’t] to have a family.