Australia voices caution on accepting Afghan refugees citing security concerns

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Australia on Wednesday said it had no plans to allow in tens of thousands of Afghan refugees fleeing the Taliban, citing security concerns and casting doubt on promises from other Western nations.

Britain announced this week a resettlement scheme to let in up to 20,000 Afghans over the long term, with priority given to women, children and those facing persecution.

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Canada said last week it would take in up to 20,000 people.

Meanwhile Australia plans to provide Afghans with at least 3,000 visas over a year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.

“I note that some are talking about figures of 20,000 but can I tell you there are no clear plans about that. Australia is not going into that territory,” Morrison told a news conference.

Australia deployed 39,000 troops over two decades as part of US and NATO-led operations in Afghanistan.

As Australia’s air force evacuated 26 people -- including Australian and Afghan citizens -- in a first flight from Kabul, Defense Minister Peter Dutton cast doubt on the capacity of other countries to honor their pledges.

“I don’t think that, firstly, is going to happen and, secondly, there is no way in the world you can guarantee the security arrangements with that sort of movement of people,” Dutton told the national broadcaster ABC.

“Let’s see whether people put their money where their mouth is,” he said.

Some 8,500 Afghan citizens have been resettled in Australia since 2013, with 430 brought in since April, the government says.

The first evacuation flight since the Taliban takeover at the weekend landed in the United Arab Emirates on Wednesday.

Australia plans to deploy more planes to help the operation, Morrison said.

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