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Woodhouse: Speech to welcome Afghan interpreters

Michael Woodhouse

22 April, 2013

Speech to welcome Afghan interpreters

It’s a real privilege for me to welcome you all to your new home in New Zealand.

We owe you a huge debt of gratitude for your sterling work with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and the New Zealand Police through EUPOL in Afghanistan over the past 10 years. Our personnel would not have been able to have done their work effectively without the invaluable help you provided on the ground.

New Zealand has made a huge contribution towards stabilising Afghanistan during our decade’s presence in the country. But these gains have also come at a cost, with the deaths of 10 service men and women.

This sober fact puts into context the dangers you and others who work with NATO forces in Afghanistan faced on a daily basis. A number of interpreters in Afghanistan were killed or injured and the Government is acutely aware of the risks you have faced.

The Government has always taken the view that we should demonstrate a duty of care to personnel who have risked their lives to help New Zealanders.

That’s why we acted last year to offer resettlement to interpreters employed by the PRT and EUPOL in Bamyan in the past two years to New Zealand with their dependants.

I know it must seem that it has taken a long time for you to finally arrive here considering we made our original announcement back in October. As I’m sure you will appreciate a lot of behind the scenes work had to be done and it was always the plan that the PRT would finish its job first.

I want to thank those in Immigration New Zealand’s Refugee Quota Branch who worked so hard to facilitate the process to confirm your residency.

But I am delighted that you are now here after your long flight. I know it must be hard leaving the country you grew up in as well as family and friends, and no-one is expecting that it will all be easy for you. But I am sure you will find New Zealand a very welcoming country and I am confident you will settle well into your new country and make a meaningful contribution.

The Government wants to ensure that you have access to comprehensive support and settlement services. So you will spend your first eight weeks in New Zealand at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre. We believe the comprehensive programme at Mangere, focused on the skills and information you will need in New Zealand, will give you the best preparation for your new lives here.

After your time at Mangere you will be resettled in the cities of Hamilton and Palmerston North. You probably don’t know much about these places, but I want to reassure you that they are very friendly communities and you will have plenty of help from New Zealand Red Cross and other organisations to help you find your feet. This will include support in finding suitable housing, settling into your new homes, finding schools for your children, and finding work.

Even though the adjustment to New Zealand life will be a major change for you I am confident you will have a great future here. Enjoy everything this country has to offer. On behalf of the Government and the people of New Zealand I welcome you, and wish you all the very best as you settle in to your new lives.

Embrace the opportunity to add to the richness and diversity of New Zealand culture. Celebrate your own culture and heritage. Take every opportunity to reach your potential as new Kiwis.

Encourage your children to learn in our fantastic education system so that they too may grow up to fulfil their dreams and aspirations. To become scientists, doctors, lawyers, maybe even All blacks or Black Caps. Whatever path you and your families choose I want you to know you have our strong support and best wishes.

I look forward to hearing about your progress and to catching up with you in the future.

Thank you all.

ENDS


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