Hundreds of temporary visas have been issued to desperate Palestinians by the Australian Government over the past few weeks as Israel continues its bombardment on Gaza, but Foreign Minister Penny Wong says the situation remains ‘very difficult’.
Between October 7 and November 20, there were 860 visas approved by the Department of Home Affairs to Palestinians with connections to Australia.
However, only a small amount of those with approved visas have made it out of the war zone.
Ms Wong confirmed 67 people – including Australians, permanent residents and their families – crossed into Egypt via the Rafah border crossing overnight.
The Australian Government approved 860 visas from Palestinians between October 7 and November 20 (pictured, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese)
‘This is the second group to cross this week after we helped 31 people cross the border on Monday,’ she told reporters on Wednesday.
‘They are supported by consular staff in Cairo.
‘To date, we have so far facilitated the departure of a total of 127 Australians, permanent residents and their families.
‘We would have wanted all Australians and permanent residents with innocent families to have been out within days but we recognise that this is a very difficult situation.
‘I have engaged not only with the United States, but also with Qatar and Egypt, in relation to the Rafah crossing on more than one occasion and want to publicly again state thanks for their assistance in enabling this crossing.’
Ms Wong said people who obtained Australian visas were subject to appropriate security checks.
‘These people have been subjected to the same security checks by Australian Border Force and authorities as you would expect any visa applicant would be required,’ she said.
Foreign Minister Penny Wong confirmed 67 people, including Australians, permanent residents and their families, safely crossed into Egypt overnight
Israel’s attacks on Gaza came after Hamas killed hundreds of civilians and kidnapped others on October 7.
It was revealed on Wednesday that Israel and Hamas had reached an agreement for a four-day humanitarian pause in exchange for the release of 50 hostages in Gaza, as well as some Palestinians detained in Israel.
‘The agreement includes the release of 50 civilian women and children hostages currently held in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of a number of Palestinian women and children detained in Israeli prisons, the number of those released will be increased in later stages of implementing the agreement,’ Qatar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.
Ms Wong said the four-day ceasefire was an ‘important and necessary step’, and ultimately everyone should work towards a ‘long-term, enduring peace’.
‘Australia has consistently called for the release of hostages, for humanitarian access and for the protection of civilian lives,’ she said.
‘We have also said we want to see the next steps towards a sustainable ceasefire but that it could not be one-sided.’
Asked specifically if she would like to see an ongoing ceasefire, Ms Wong said she wanted a ‘sustainable ceasefire’.
Ms Wong (above) said Australia wants to see a ‘sustainable ceasefire’ enacted between Hamas and the Israeli Government
‘I think we would all want to see a sustainable ceasefire and we also know they cannot be one-sided,’ she said.
‘We recognise that the steps that have been taken today with this agreement that has been negotiated is progress towards these goals.
‘We remain deeply concerned about the loss of civilian life and I know so many Australians are deeply concerned about the loss of civilian life.
‘People are distressed about the horrific attack by Hamas.
‘People want hostages released and people are distressed by the loss of civilian life in the period we have seen over these last few weeks.’