Australia evacuates more than 50 Afghan women athletes and dependants

Australian citizens and visa holders evacuated from Afghanistan disembarking at Perth Airport on Aug 20. PHOTO: AFP PHOTO/AUSTRALIAN DEFENCE FORCE

CANBERRA (REUTERS) - Australia evacuated more than 50 Afghan women athletes and their dependants after lobbying by prominent figures from the sporting world, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Tuesday (Aug 24).

Australia has for more than a week been evacuating its citizens and some of its former staff from its embassy in Afghanistan after the Taleban seized control of the capital Kabul on Aug 15.

About 1,000 people have been evacuated on Australian flights and the ABC reported that among them were about 50 female athletes and their dependants, after their plight drew the support of several prominent former sporting figures.

Nikki Dryden, who swam for Canada at two Olympic Games, worked with an Australian lawyer to complete the visa applications for the Afghan athletes, who included Paralympians.

Amid fears that a protracted visa process would scupper the plan, the refugee advocates secured the help of Australia's former soccer captain Craig Foster, the ABC reported.

The ABC said Foster lobbied Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Sports Minister Richard Colbeck.

Soon afterwards, the athletes secured visas and then managed to make it to the airport in Kabul for an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan, the ABC reported.

Representatives for Ms Payne and Mr Colbeck did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. Foster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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