Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has announced his decision to grant New Zealand residence to nine Afghan interpreters and 26 family members.
“Local interpreters worked on the front lines with New Zealand personnel in Afghanistan. The Government recognises its duty of care to these men and their wives and children, and is committed to fulfilling that duty,” Mr Woodhouse says.
“Our brave New Zealand forces put themselves in harm’s way in a foreign country to help the people of Afghanistan. In turn, these local interpreters worked side-by-side with New Zealanders towards the same goal.”
New Zealand resettled 30 Afghan interpreters and 64 family members in April this year under a package agreed by Cabinet in December 2012. The package was open to interpreters who had worked for the New Zealand-led Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) within the previous two years.
Those who fell outside the package requirements but believed they had a case to come to New Zealand were invited to write to the Immigration Minister requesting residence as an exception to normal policy.
“These nine interpreters took up that invitation. After considering their service and circumstances, my decision now clears the way for them and their families to join their former colleagues and become first generation New Zealanders.”
The government will arrange travel from Afghanistan to New Zealand. The families will spend their first six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre, undertaking a comprehensive programme in preparation for their new lives.
Mr Woodhouse says the 94 Afghans that arrived in April also spent their first weeks at Mangere and are generally settling in well, gaining benefit from both their command of English and the time spent in the company of Kiwi troops.
“I’m confident these new families will also settle well in their new communities, and I’ve asked officials to prioritise these cases. However, there is a lot of work in relocating whole families from Afghanistan, and arrangements will be made to bring these families here as soon as possible over the coming months.”