Australia evacuates more than 50 female Afghan athletes and dependents

CANBERRA, (Reuters) – Australia evacuated more than 50 female Afghan athletes and their dependents after lobbying from prominent figures from the sporting world, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported on Tuesday.

Australia has for more than a week been evacuating its citizens and some of its former staff from its embassy after the Taliban seized control of the capital, Kabul, on Aug. 15.

About 1,000 people have been evacuated on Australian flights and the ABC reported that among them were about 50 female athletes and their dependents, after their plight had drawn the support of several prominent former sporting figures.

Nikki Dryden, who swam for Canada at two Olympic Games, worked with an Australian lawyer to complete the visa applications for the athletes that included Afghan Paralympians.

Amid fears a protracted visa process would scupper the plan, the refugee advocates secured the help of Australia’s former soccer captain, Craig Foster, the ABC reported.

The ABC said Foster lobbied Foreign Minister Marise Payne and Sports Minister Richard Colbeck.

Soon afterwards, the athletes secured visas and then managed to make it to the airport in Kabul for an evacuation flight out of Afghanistan, the ABC reported.

Representatives for Payne and Colbeck did not immediately respond to questions from Reuters. Foster did not immediately respond to a request for comment.