Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman arrived home from the Middle East this morning to confirm the Government has offered refuge in New Zealand to 23 interpreters currently employed by the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan.

Dr Coleman's office previously said the number of interpreters covered by the offer was as high as 26.

The package allows the interpreters to be resettled in New Zealand with their immediate dependents or opt for a three-year salary payment so they can relocate elsewhere in Afghanistan.

About 73 people will be offered places if all interpreters currently employed and their immediate dependents elect to take residency.


"The interpreters are playing a critical role in the operation of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan enabling the PRT to interact effectively with the local population," Dr Coleman said.

"Offering assistance to current interpreters employed by the Government reflects the view that New Zealand should demonstrate a duty of care to this group who have served New Zealand with the work of the Provincial Reconstruction Team."

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said the interpreters are not refugees as defined by the Refugee Convention and do not have asylum seeker status. They will be granted residence under a discretion offered by Section 72 of the Immigration Act.

Those who wish to come to New Zealand will be offered the same initial resettlement arrangements as offered under the annual refugee quota, including a six-week resettlement programme at the Mangere Refugee Centre.

"They will not displace refugees offered places under our United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees quota of 750 people per year," said Mr Guy.