Principal Solicitor of Immigration Solutions Lawyers, Mrs Anne O’Donoghue, was invited to speak and moderate at the International Bar Association’s 10th Biennial Conference in December 2022, for the session titled “The world in crisis: 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 crisis put the earlier one in its 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.
Anne O’Donoghue, in addition to moderating the session, provided Australia’s perspective on the Afghan Airlift, and in particular the personal role Anne had while collaborating with Baroness Helena Kennedy – which made history – in their assistance to the Afghan women judges in securing permanent visas. Anne O’Donoghue was personally contacted by the International Bar Association (IBA) and Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, who had evacuated a number of Afghan women judges, prosecutors, activists and their families from Afghanistan to Greece in 2021 during the early days of the Taliban takeover in Afghanistan.
Anne spoke of her firm’s initiative to apply to the Immigration Minister for temporary subclass 449 visas for 20 of the Afghan women judges, prosecutors, activists and their families to be able to settle in Australia away from their persecutors. The group consisted of 20 main applicants and a total of 90 applicants altogether, including family members.
It was commended by Anne and her team at Immigration Solutions Lawyers, along with Baroness Helena Kennedy – who also expressed her fascinating and thrilling perspective on the airlift – at the session, who, by application to the Minister, were able to obtain a visa grant for all 90 applicants – which was a remarkable and unique outcome – and who have now lodged numerous permanent residence visa applications for those who chose to settle in Australia, of which, almost all of the permanent residence visa applications are now granted.
The session was moving and insightful, but at most, empowering, with those attending having the ability to experience a perspective so raw and accurate from the Afghan women judges, who provided their perception of their experience in seeking asylum – and being airlifted out of what was once their home country, to its now unrecognisable state.
Anne was honoured to have received the Australasian Elite Woman Award 2023 for her efforts and assistance to the Afghan women judges.
Authors: Anne O’Donoghue and Diane Markantonakis