History of immigration from Afghanistan

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Map of Afghanistan
Map date: 2013
The first Afghani people to arrive in Australia during the 1860s were cameleers, entering Australia with travelling papers obtained while working in British India. They worked in nearly all areas of transportation including exploration, mining and the supply of provisions to homesteads. Few settled in Victoria: in 1901, the Afghani population included only eight males and no females.

With the introduction of cars and trucks into Australia during the 1920s, the Afghan cameleers became redundant. Some returned to Afghanistan, while others became small property owners.

The second group of Afghani immigrants arrived in Australia following the 1979 invasion of Afghanistan by the Soviet Union. Over two million Afghanis fled Soviet attacks on hospitals, schools and mosques. Australia accepted a small number as refugees, increasing the Afghanistan-born population to almost 1,000 during the early 1990s. The majority settled in Victoria and New South Wales.

Following the Soviet withdrawal, factional fighting led to the emergence of the Taliban, which imposed strict Islamic religious controls on the population. On-going civil war supported by external countries caused more Afghanis to flee. Some were accepted by Australia as refugees. A severe drought in 2000 saw several hundred more Afghani asylum-seekers arrive in Australia by boat. The Afghanistan-born population of Victoria increased from 764 in 1991, to 9945 in 2011.

Victoria is currently home to the second largest Afghani community in Australia outside New South Wales. The majority work in labouring, production and transport. In the 2011 census the majority were Muslims under the age of 40, living in the Dandenong area. The community is supported by organisations such as the Afghan Australian Welfare Association, who assist new arrivals with employment, housing and other settlement issues.

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