A group of 61 organisations and individuals, including aid groups, religious and community leaders, lawyers and academics, are calling on the Government to stop dragging its feet on Afghanistan and urgently act as the troubled country's humanitarian crisis worsens.
An open letter to Nanaia Mahuta, Minister of Foreign Affairs was submitted today from the group, expressing major concerns about delays in Government action.
"Your Government is perceived to be one that practices kindness and is committed to collective action for the betterment of humanity, yet other countries have taken significant steps to address the need for international support and assistance, while New Zealand has not," says the letter, which comes after Afghanistan fell back into Taliban hands last month after two decades of war.
The urgent plea highlights the needs in Afghanistan which are "growing by the hour".
While the Taliban settles into power, there have been mounting reports of executions and revenge attacks, including the targeting of Afghan civilians who worked alongside foreign forces.
There are around 365 people with links to New Zealand who are still in Afghanistan, including passport and visa holders, along with ex-NZDF interpreters and others who worked with Kiwi troops, who couldn't be evacuated before the total withdrawal of US and other NATO allies at the end of August amid suicide bomb attacks and rising terror threats.
The Herald reported on Tuesday that proposals to try to evacuate those left behind will be considered by Cabinet next week.
None of the group of 38 Afghan interpreters and other ex-NZDF Afghan civilians managed to get evacuated, the Defence Minister's office confirmed this week.
On top of the cut-short evacuations, the group points to compounding crises which include hunger, displacement, conflict and Covid-19.
"Basic services are collapsing, and aid is running out," the open letter says.
"There are ongoing reports of gross human rights abuses. Women, children, and those who have worked to promote human rights, democracy and education, are amongst the people most at risk.
"Urgent action is needed to prevent an even greater humanitarian disaster and to ensure that every individual has their rights and dignity upheld."
Canada has announced the resettlement of up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghan nationals, while the UK has committed to accepting 20,000 Afghan refugees and the US is expected to admit 50,000. America has also set aside a US$500 million fund which will help meet urgent migration needs, while European countries and Australia are taking similar steps.
"However, New Zealand has made no such commitments yet," says the letter, urging the Government to take action.
"The New Zealand Government spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in military expenditure as part of the international intervention in Afghanistan.
"We have an obligation to the people of Afghanistan to stand by them now. Be it the provision of aid, or safe pathways to New Zealand, the time for response is immediate and the cost of inaction is high.
"We now call on you to do more."
The open letter is signed by:
Afghan Cultural Association of Wellington
Amnesty International Aotearoa New Zealand
Aotearoa Resettled Community Coalition (ARCC)
Asylum Support Seekers Trust (ASST)
Caritas Aotearoa New Zealand
Christian Churches New Zealand
Christian World Service
Community Law Centres O Aotearoa
Congregational Union of New Zealand
Council for International Development
Hazara Afghan Youth Association (HAYA)
Hazara Association of New Zealand
Methodist Church of New Zealand
NZBMS (New Zealand Baptist Missionary Society)
Save the Children
The Gender Justice Collective
The National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies, University of Otago
UN Women Aotearoa New Zealand
United Afghan Association of Canterbury
Vineyard Churches Aotearoa New Zealand
Wesleyan Methodist Church of New Zealand
World Vision New Zealand
Alberto Costi, Professor, Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington
Amin Vakili, Civil Society Activist and members of the Afghan Cultural Association of Wellington
Archbishop Don Tamihere. Te Pihopa o Aotearoa
Archbishop Philip Richardson, Bishop of Waikato and Taranaki
Associate Professor Bethan Greener PhD, Massey
Blake Dawson, Barrister (Brandon Street Chambers)
Bridget Crichton (Fa'amatuainu), Lecturer, AUT School of Law
Carol Peters, PhD, QSM, Whangarei District Councillor
Dr Arif Ali, Hazara Association of New Zealand and Afghan Cultural Association of Wellington
Dr Charles Mpofu, Senior Lecturer
Dr Marnie Lloydd, Lecturer, Victoria University of Wellington
Dr Natalia Szablewska, International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Expert, Auckland University of Technology
Dr. Heather Devere, Director of Practice, Te Ao o Rongmaraeroa/National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies
Eleanor Holroyd Co-Director AUT Centre of Migrant and Refugee Research
James Meager, Public Law Solicitor
Jane Verbitsky, Associate Professor
Javid Nazari, President of Afghan Cultural Association of Wellington
John McBride, Barrister
Marianne Elliott, Human Rights Advocate
Mohammad Raqiz Nabizadah, member of Afghan Cultural Association of Wellington
Monique van Alphen Fyfe, Barrister | Rōia Tūtahi (Stout Street Chambers)
Natalie Baird, Associate Professor, Faculty of Law | Te Kaupeka Ture, University of Canterbury | Te Whare Wānanga o Waitaha
Nicola Muir, Author
Paul Rishworth QC
Right Reverend Fakaofo Kaio - Moderator Presbyterian Church of Aotearoa NZ
Shakerah Zakeri, member of the Afghan community
Sulaiman Sarwary, PhD student and member of Aotearoa's Afghan Community
Wendy Aldred, Barrister (Stout Street Chambers)