AFP helping to keep Afghan arrivals safe

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Editor's note: Audio grabs from Commander Stephen Dametto are available for download.

The Taliban takeover in Afghanistan and recent arrivals of forcibly displaced Afghans have reinforced the importance of the Australian Federal Police Community Liaison Teams.

Building relationships with our culturally and linguistically diverse communities around Australia is a top priority for the AFP.

One benefit of those strong relationships is that the AFP has been able to gain important insights into the impact that the rise of the Taliban is having on communities in Australia and on their friends and relatives still trapped in Afghanistan.

Commander Stephen Dametto said the AFP and its partner agencies were monitoring for any threats from Taliban or Islamic State sympathisers in Australia, as well as trying to track the situation in Afghanistan.

"Fortunately, we have not seen increased threats from religious or issue-motivated extremists in Australia as a result of the Taliban resurgence," Commander Dametto said.

"Many of the new arrivals, as well as immigrants who have been here for several years, have expressed fears for relatives or friends trapped in Afghanistan.

"Our CLT teams have been focused on helping recent arrivals, connecting them to other support services and organisations.

"We also make sure they know they have rights and police in Australia will protect them from persecution."

The AFP members have attended welcome events for newly arrived Afghans and distributed clothing, toys and other gifts, as well as information about the AFP and how the agency may be able to support them.

"This simple act is one step in addressing any misconceptions that may be held of police and authorities at an early stage of their settlement journey," Commander Dametto said.

Engagement with diverse communities is vital to protect the safety of everyone who calls Australia home.

Commander Dametto said it was particularly important for the AFP to build trust with immigrants and refugees who have come from conflict zones and may carry negative perceptions of police.

 "The community needs to trust police enough to feel that if they see a family member or friend who is going down the wrong path, that they can go to police for help."

While preventing terrorism is a large focus of the CLTs' work, their efforts to keep people safe through engagement covers a range of topics.

CLT members regularly present the AFP's ThinkUKnow cyber safety program to culturally diverse schools or to new migrants, and discuss the AFP's role to combat human trafficking, including forced marriage.

"We will prevent any attempts to take people overseas against their will to be married. If we can build trusted relationships, community members will be willing to seek our help," Commander Dametto said.

Dedicated CLT members based across the nation attend community and youth events, organise and participate in forums with spiritual and community leaders and act as a conduit between the community and law enforcement.

Commander Dametto said the AFP was also striving to increase diversity in recruitment to enable the agency to better represent the communities it serves.

"I believe we all want the same thing in the end; for all Australians to feel safe in their community, and this means protecting Australia from extremist violence in all its forms," Commander Dametto said.

Editor's Note: Please contact AFP media for more details on CLT activities in South Australia, Queensland and New South Wales.

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