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Law Council of Australia

International Law Section

The International Bar Association’s 10th Biennial Global Immigration Conference

Authors: Anne O’Donoghue and Diane Markantonakis.

Principal Solicitor of Immigration Solutions Lawyers, Mrs. Anne O’Donoghue, was invited to speak and moderate at The International Bar Association’s 10th Biennial Global Immigration Conference in December 2022, for the session titled “The World in Crises: how lawyers and NGOs responded to the Afghan airlift and Ukraine invasion”.

The session explored ways in which lawyers, NGOs, civil society and lawmakers dealt with two major crises the Taliban takeover and Afghan airlift in September 2021 and the invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, to what extent did the later crises put the earlier one it’s in shadow, how have lawyers navigated the complexities of assisting refugees to leave where there are no safe and legal routes, and how does the treatment of Afghan refugees differ from the temporary protection instruments available to Ukrainians at EU and national level.

The speakers in the session included Baroness Helena Kennedy, Alex Stojicevic, Katie Newbury, Karolina Schifter, and Helle Holm Thomsen, all of whom contributed their fruitful and insightful perspectives, with a wonderful guest appearance by two Afghan Women Judges, who were personally assisted by Baroness Helena Kennedy to seek asylum.

The perspective of the two London Based, Afghan Judges, provided the panel and the audience incredibly rare insight as to the realities of the Afghan Airlift, the dangers that ensued and the heart rendering personal recollection and experience these two women lived and succeeded through. Described by Marcia Longdon, “when Afghan Judge, Quarmi spoke of her journey, it was more than heartbreaking”.  Additionally, Katie Newbury expressed her gratitude at how the session presented how the “Afghan judges evacuated Afghanistan in 2021 and ultimately found safety around the world…. And was also very grateful to hear directly from two Afghan judges about their journeys and how they are rebuilding their lives in the UK.”

The presence of the Afghan Judges allowed the audience to accurately feel the compelling nature of their evidence and leaving Afghanistan, including their fears which they suffered in spite of finding safety.

Australia’s perspective regarding the Afghan airlift was also expressed and in particular the personal role which Anne had whilst collaborating with Baroness Helena Kennedy which made history, in their assistance to the Afghan Women Judges, in securing Permanent Visas, after evacuating a number of Afghan Women Judges, Prosecutors, Activists, and their families from Afghanistan to Greece in 2021, during the early days of the Taliban taking over in Afghanistan.

The session was moving and insightful but, at most, empowering, with those attending having the ability to experience a perspective so raw and accurate, by the Afghan Women judges who were able to attend, and provide their perception of their experience in seeking asylum, and being airlifted out of what was once their home country, to its now unrecognisable state.