The situation in Afghanistan is utterly devastating. The images in our newspapers and on our television screens have shocked and saddened our nation. I don’t think there is an Australian out there that hasn’t felt a deep sense of emotion over the past couple of weeks for those in Afghanistan.

My thoughts at this time are with those most impacted, their families and loved ones, particularly the Afghani Harzara community living here in Barker. I cannot imagine what they are going through at this time.

My heart sank upon waking this morning to the horrid news of the evil and calculated attack perpetrated on the innocent and the brave at the Hamid Karzai International Airport. The Australian Government strongly condemns the attack and we join with our American and Afghan friends in mourning their terrible loss. I am especially mindful of the reported 13 United States Defence Force personnel who lost their lives providing a pathway to freedom for others.

Prior to the attack, Australia had supported the evacuation of approximately 4,100 people on 32 flights in nine days under incredibly dangerous and deteriorating circumstances.

I commend the work of Australian Defence Force, and the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and of Home Affairs for this has remarkable effort.

I also commend our intelligence agencies who are responsible for saving many Australian lives. It’s thanks to our intelligence networks that we were able to instruct our contacts to stay away from the airport, refrain from gathering in large crowds and move away from the gates in the hours leading up to the attack.

While Australia’s evacuation operations may have concluded, the Australian Government will continue to help Australians, Permanent Residents and their family members who are seeking to leave Afghanistan.

The Australian Government is receiving a large volume of enquiries from visa applicants and members of the public seeking to assist Afghan nationals who wish to be granted a visa or leave Afghanistan.

Many of these visa applications are complex and cannot be completed quickly despite our best efforts.

While Australia consistently operates one of the world’s most generous humanitarian resettlement programs, we continue to balance our obligations as global citizens with the safety and security of our nation.

All foreign nationals require a valid visa to enter Australia and all applicants must continue to meet visa criteria and character, security and health requirements.

This is an incredible complex and evolving situation and our Government and our international partners are working diligently to ensure we are doing everything we can to manage the situation for the best outcomes possible.

Finally, I note the Prime Minister has been very clear that no Afghan visa holder currently in Australia will be asked to return to Afghanistan while the security situation there remains dire.

Anyone requiring assistance pertaining to the situation in Afghanistan should contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.