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Australia lends a helping hand to fleeing Afghan para-athletes



Australia steps up in solidarity as Afghan paralympians Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli are invited to seek refuge in the country.

Afghanistan flag at 2020 Tokyo Olympics opening ceremony

There are reports that two afghan paralympians who have landed in Tokyo to compete in the 2020 Paralympics, will soon resettle in Australia.

Afghanistan athletes Zakia Khudadadi and Hossain Rasouli have received humanitarian visas to stay in Australia, after fleeing Kabul following the Taliban takeover. 

Former Socceroo and refugee advocate Craig Foster told the Nine Network on Sunday that efforts were made to grant both athletes safe asylum.

He thanked all those involved which included Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke and Independent MP Zali Steggall.

“We must stand up for all the humane treatment of all refugees, all people, especially and immediately, but not only Afghanistan.”

Foster said on Twitter. 

It comes as welcome news to many advocates who worked tirelessly to help both paralympians flee the country. 

Human Rights for All lawyer Alison Battisson was involved in the efforts to evacuate scores of Afghan athletes out of the war-torn country.

She told SBS news that it was the efforts of a mainly female-dominated team of lawyers and an intern which helped the Paralympian pair escape.

“I have this amazing legal intern … Eric Zhang, [who] did [Zakia’s] application,” Battisson says.

“[He] stayed with those two for days, translating and pushing for their evacuation. He risked his life to get them over the line.”

Uncertainty surrounded the team’s attendance

Many didn’t think the Afghan paralympian team would make the games due to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.

Consequently, the team wasn’t at the opening ceremony to carry their flag, with an Olympic volunteer carrying out it on their behalf as a way of representing solidarity. 

“Twelve days ago we were informed that the Afghan Paralympic Team could not travel to Tokyo, a move that broke the hearts of all involved in the Paralympic movement and left both athletes devastated,” IPC president Andrew Parsons said. 

“That announcement kick-started a major global operation that led to their safe evacuation from Afghanistan, their recuperation by France, and now their safe arrival in Tokyo.” 

The first female Afghan athlete since 2005

Zakia will be the first female Afghan to compete at the Olympics in 17 years, taking part in the women’s taekwondo K44-49kg category on Thursday. 

The Australian Government and Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne are yet to comment on the situation.

Written by Rebecca Borg

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