THE HON RICHARD MARLES MP
DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER
MINISTER FOR DEFENCE
SENATOR THE HON PENNY WONG
LEADER OF THE GOVERNMENT IN THE SENATE
MINISTER FOR FOREIGN AFFAIRS
THE HON MARK DREYFUS KC MP
THE HON ANDREW GILES MP
MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP AND MULTICULTURAL AFFAIRS
INDEPENDENT REVIEW INTO THE AFGHAN LOCALLY ENGAGED EMPLOYEE PROGRAM
The Albanese Government is committed to standing by those who helped Australia’s mission in Afghanistan, and will implement all of the recommendations of the final report of the Independent Review into the Afghan Locally Engaged Employee (LEE) Program.
Established on 10 November 2022, the Independent Review led by Dr Vivienne Thom AM has made seven recommendations to improve the design and delivery of the Afghan LEE program. Work to implement the recommendations has already begun.
Consistent with the Report’s recommendations and the program’s original intent, the Government has expanded eligibility for certification to include security guards and former Afghan government and military officials who were employed with the Australian mission in Afghanistan. Applicants from these cohorts who were previously found to be ineligible will be contacted, where possible.
As part of its commitment to improve the administration of the program, and ensure consistency across Government, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Department of Defence will undertake a review of relevant historic decisions.
All applicants will still need to demonstrate they were employed with Australia and at risk as a result of that employment, to be eligible for certification.
Dr Thom’s Review confirms many of the concerns raised by the Senate Inquiry into Australia's Engagement in Afghanistan. The Morrison Government failed to adequately plan for the evacuation of Afghan LEE and oversaw a program characterised by inconsistencies and irregular decision making, poor administration, and inadequate communication with applicants.
In line with the Report’s recommendations and the Government’s commitment to finalising certifications for individuals and their families as a matter of priority, new applications for certification under the Afghan LEE Program will close on 30 November 2023, with the Program closing by 31 May 2024.
The Government is committed to supporting Afghans and has allocated 26,500 dedicated places in Australia’s Humanitarian Program for Afghan nationals through to 2025-26. Since the fall of Kabul, more than 12,000 permanent humanitarian visas have been granted to Afghan citizens under the Humanitarian Program, and the Department of Home Affairs continues to prioritise Humanitarian visa applications from Afghan LEE and their immediate family members.
Since 2013, more than 2,500 Afghan LEE and their families have arrived in Australia under the Afghan LEE program and have made valuable contributions to the Australian community.
In undertaking the Review, Dr Thom met with Ministers and engaged with whole-of-government and public stakeholders.
The final Report, along with the Australian Government’s full response to the Independent Review is available online: Afghan Locally Engaged Employee Program | Australian Government Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (dfat.gov.au).
The Government would like to thank Dr Vivienne Thom AM for her leadership of the review as well as all stakeholders who participated in the Review process.
THURSDAY, 1 JUNE 2023