More Afghan staff considered for resettlement packages

By Kate Shuttleworth

Photo / File
Photo / File

The Government is considering extending a resettlement package to other Afghan staff who worked for Defence in addition to interpreters who fear insurgent retribution when foreign troops leave Afghanistan.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman last month confirmed 23 interpreters and their families - 73 people - currently employed by the Provincial Reconstruction team in Bamiyan province would be offered either resettlement in New Zealand or a three-year salary package so they could relocate within Afghanistan.

The offer did not include former staff, some of whom had written to Defence pleading for it to be extended to them.

Dr Coleman today would not make any promises, but said former staff had made requests for resettlement.

"There have been a range of locally employed staff there, who have worked in and around the base and it's a matter of working out who genuinely could have a case to say that potentially they may be at some sort of risk.

"At the end of the day you can't prove there's not a risk - so that's why we've said all along that we'll act in good faith.

"We're not going to leave anyone behind who may genuinely be at risk."

He said some interpreters had been in meetings with the Defence Force and were photographed by potential insurgents, putting them at risk.

He said he would weigh up if the risk posed to interpreters was greater than for other staff.

"You'd have a case to say there's potentially a greater risk than if you're someone who has been delivering food to the base."

When asked how much it would cost to resettle current and former interpreting staff, Dr Coleman said it was not a matter of money.

"It's not a matter of how much it's going to cost; it's a matter of doing the right thing and making sure that we look after people who have served New Zealand.

"We couldn't have done our job in Bamiyan without these interpreters," he said.

Prime Minister John Key said last week the Government would look at former interpreters on a case-by-case basis.

It was unclear whether the interpreters who come to New Zealand would apply under the United Nations refugee category - New Zealand has a quota of 750 refugees a year.

Dr Coleman said a decision on whether a resettlement package would be extended to former staff would be likely before Christmas.

- APNZ

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