“We have 26,000 requests that exceed 100,000 people,” he told the committee.
“Everyone who comes with these visas will be a humanitarian participant.”
The reason for the difference is that most of these visa applications have a lot of people connected to them – usually close family members.
The committee also heard some people did not want to leave Kabul because they were still trying to get visas for family members they wanted to bring with them.
Director and Chief Counsel for the Refugee Counseling and Case Work Service Sarah Dale said the demand showed the urgent need for help from those seeking protection in Afghanistan.
“It shows the level of absolute terror that people are experiencing in Afghanistan – it shows that people are desperate to find a safe place,” she told SBS News.
“They desperately find a way to safety for their families and … a lot of people have that connection to Australia.”
The federal government has promised to provide initial 3,000 humanitarian sites to Afghan nationals fleeing the country, describing this figure as a “floor” and not a “ceiling”.
But the total is still within the limit of Australia’s annual humanitarian program of around 13,750 sites, causing concerns about whether the allocation will go far enough to meet the growing demand.
The Senate hearing also confirmed that at least 286 Australian citizens and permanent residents seeking help from the Australian government remain stranded in Afghanistan.
The figure is based on individuals who have registered directly with the Department of Foreign Affairs.
The Australian government has previously avoided giving an assessment of those in Afghanistan seeking to come to Australia, citing security concerns.
This drew the wrath of Labor foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong during the hearing.
“Why can’t you tell the Australian public how many people we’ve left behind – you can’t even give us an estimate?” Senator Wong said.
Mr Wilden said many people seeking protection from Australia had already left Afghanistan, including visa holders fleeing to the United States, the United Kingdom, Europe and other surrounding countries.
“It’s not as simple as being left behind in a country against which has a valid visa to Australia,” he said.
The focus of the investigation is also on applying scrutiny to the Australian government’s evacuation efforts ahead of the Taliban’s capture of Kabul.
The Australian embassy in the Afghan capital was formally closed on 28 May, and the final diplomats, military and spies left the country in June.
The exit came before the Taliban took over in mid-August.
But Defense Force Chief Angus Campbell defended the government’s decision not to arrange military evacuation flights for Afghan people ahead of the capture of Kabul.
“In July there was no military reason for an evacuation operation to be conducted by the ADF,” he told the committee.
Officials argued that before this point commercial flights had satisfied the demand for evacuations from the country.
They showed data showing a level requirement for visas of former locally employed employees in the months before the takeover of the capital.
Department of Defense official Hugh Jeffrey also said the former Afghan government was “sensitive” to the possible signal that evacuations could send.
“There has been concern about countries making visible evacuation efforts,” he said.
But humanitarian advocate Dr. Kay Danes of GAP’s Veterans and Legal Services earlier told the committee that the federal government had failed to do enough before the situation worsened.
“We left all those people behind unnecessarily – I don’t think that’s morally correct,” she said.
“We had a chance to do something and we didn’t.”
Officials said a decision to close the embassy in Kabul was “further accentuated” after U.S. President Joe Biden’s announcement of his nation’s withdrawal from the region.
The Australian government evacuated about 4,100 people from the Afghan capital during its evacuation mission as tens of thousands tried to flee the Taliban-controlled capital.
DFAT’s Daniel Sloper said that while the mission was largely successful, the government was “very aware” that other Australians and visa holders had been left behind.
Those who served with allied forces and religious minorities who could not secure evacuation flights continued to express fears of retaliatory attacks by the Taliban regime.
Several humanitarian organizations have pressured the government to commit to additional humanitarian consumption of at least 20,000 Afghans in line with the promises of Canada and the United Kingdom over a number of years.