The Government is looking into claims by a group of Afghan interpreters working with Kiwi troops in Afghanistan that they will be killed when New Zealand troops withdraw.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman, who has just returned from a visit to Afghanistan, said today he had spoken with five of the interpreters and had received a letter from them asking for asylum in New Zealand.

The workers have said that by them working with the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) and the SAS over a long period their identities had become known to insurgents and even if their region was secure, in the long term they would be targeted, Dr Coleman said.

"I don't know if that's a real risk or not, but it's something I'm going to seriously look at."


Dr Coleman believed there were at least 20 interpreters working with the New Zealand PRT, but it could well be over 100 people when families and previous workers were included.

He had told the interpreters there was no guarantee they could come to New Zealand, and he would asses the risk.

"It's a matter of determining whether that risk is real, and I'm not saying that it's not, we just have to give it the proper considerations. It will be some time before we make that decision but I've given them the assurance we will get back to them."