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Australia grants dozens of humanitarian visas to Afghan athletes, including Paralympians

Dozens of athletes, including female Paralympians whose dreams of competition in Tokyo were crushed by the return of the Taliban, have been granted humanitarian visas by the Australian government.

About 50 athletes and their families, including two Paralympians, have managed to secure Australia’s protection.

Advocates still hold out hope the Paralympians could compete in Tokyo but say the most important thing is that they are safe. The Games begin on Tuesday.

Australian Paralympian Kurt Fearnley and Canadian Olympian and human rights lawyer Nikki Dryden were among those advocating for the group, along with retired Australian football player and human rights activist Craig Foster.

In an interview with ABC Radio on Tuesday morning, Ms Dryden revealed the terrifying ordeal the group faced trying to reach the airport in Kabul.

“They spent the first 24 hours at the airport in lines of thousands of people,” she said.

“A lot of women … slept rough outside the first night. They were mugged, they were touched, they were exhausted.”

She said the athletes showed immense courage.

“I really want everybody to know that. Yes, we gave them a hand, but they did it on their own.”

“They saved themselves.”

Independent MP Zali Steggall, a former winter Olympian, was also among those involved in raising the athletes’ plight.

She has welcomed news of the visas being granted, and credited Foreign Minister Marise Payne, Minister for Sport Richard Colbeck and Immigration Minister Alex Hawke for a “prompt response”.