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Penny Wong demands Marise Payne fast-track visa for Afghan helpers fearing reprisals in Taliban surge

Australia has been urged to step in and save hundreds of people who helped us during the war on terror whose lives are now at risk.

Labor has demanded the federal government “do what is morally right” by fast-tracking visas for Afghans who helped Australia during the war, warning failure to act quickly will cost lives as the Taliban surges.

The hardline group, which ruled most of Afghanistan for five years before the 2001 invasion, has regained swathes of the country following the withdrawal of troops from the US, UK and Australia.

Hundreds of Afghans who supported Australia now fear being killed in reprisals after the federal government refused to consider them as part of a special visa program, according to The Australian.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has told one aid he was not eligible for the locally engaged program because he was hired via a subcontractor.

Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong lashed Ms Payne for the distinction, saying Australia had an “obligation” to protect people who worked for it regardless of how they were hired.

“The Taliban don’t care if you work for the government or for a subcontractor. That doesn’t matter to the Taliban,” she said on Tuesday.

“We should do the right thing; we should do what is morally right. And we should also ensure that we show the world that if you help Australia, we’ll help you.”

Those affected will now have to join an exodus of Afghans seeking asylum via the regular refugee program, marred by long waiting times and delays.

Ms Payne in June described resettling Afghan helpers as a “moral obligation” but earlier conceded the process had been “going on for a number of years”.

But with the beleaguered Afghan Army now the only force tasked with containing the Taliban’s advances, the UK and US have already moved to rapidly resettle Afghans who supported them during the nearly two decades-long occupation.

Ms Wong said Australia had been “slower and less fair” than its allies while processing the men’s claims.

“The cost of that could be in people’s lives. These people helped us, put their lives in danger. We have an obligation to help them,” she said.

NCA NewsWire has contacted the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.

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