Australian researcher criticizes visa policy for Afghan women

Photo: Reuters

An Australian researcher, Isabelle Zhu-Maguire, has criticized her government’s visa policies for Afghan women, arguing that despite Australia’s professed support for Afghans, securing a visa is nearly impossible for them due to stringent requirements.

In her analysis, Maguire highlighted the dire situation for women in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, noting that restrictions on women are increasing, with fears that practices such as child marriage and the objectification of women could become normalized.

“A generation of progress and empowerment is now on the cusp of being lost,” Maguire wrote. “Afghan women, once pillars of Afghanistan’s potential future, have been trapped behind four walls.”

She pointed out that the most viable option for Afghan women seeking refuge in Australia is through a humanitarian pathway. However, she noted that Australia’s humanitarian program is limited to 20,000 places annually.

Maguire explained that the evidentiary burden for Afghan women is extraordinarily high, making non-humanitarian visa options nearly unattainable. “With restrictions preventing them from leaving their homes or attending university campuses, they are unable to obtain the necessary university transcripts to support applications for student visas,” she added.

Between August 2021 and December 31, 2023, Australia granted 4,967 visas to roughly 16,000 Afghans, while Canada hosted almost 50,000 Afghan nationals across all visa streams in a similar period. Furthermore, Maguire’s findings revealed that 14,188 visa applications, representing nearly 70,000 Afghans, were refused, and 29,646 applications, accounting for 135,114 individuals, are still awaiting a decision.

Since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, Afghan women have faced systematic discrimination, losing their rights to education and employment.