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Government Accepts Afghan Interpreters for Protection

RCNZ

www.rc.org.nz

Patron: Judge Coral Shaw

REFUGEE COUNCIL OF NEW ZEALAND
MEDIA RELEASE

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 25 October, 2012

Government Accepts Afghan Interpreters for Protection

The Refugee Council of New Zealand commends and thanks Minister of Defence Hon Dr Jonathan Coleman, the Cabinet and the New Zealand Government for the decision announced today to accept http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/7863429/Kiwi-homes-for-Afghan-interpreters up to 25 Afghan interpreters and their families for protection and resettlement in New Zealand.

“This is clearly a very positive step just taken by the Government to recognise the genuine and clear need for protection of the loyal interpreters who have provided vital support to our Kiwi troops serving with the Post Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan Province,” said RCNZ spokesperson Gary Poole.

“As someone working in Afghanistan in a humanitarian agency during over 2004-06, I can confirm that the Kiwi troops in Bamiyan were highly regarded and trusted by the local population. The Hazara people were a major group in the province who suffered terrible persecution under the Talibs.”

“Without the security provided by the Kiwi troops, the massive reconstruction of roads, schools and hospitals, which my team was involved with, would have been impossible,” he said.

“Although Bamyan was once one of the more stable provinces, unfortunately over the past year it has become far more dangerous and conditions unpredictable in the period leading up to the withdrawal of foreign ISAF troops. Clearly, this is going to present a major challenge for the Afghan security forces to fill the gap next year.”

“The decision to provide protection and resettlement for up to 25 primary interpreters and their immediate families was most certainly the correct one, said Poole, not only on humanitarian grounds, but also for practical and strategic reasons.

It is very important that countries with forces in Afghanistan do not repeat the terrible mistakes of the past in Viet Nam when all the Western allied forces withdrew and left many interpreters, supporters and collaborators behind without thought of any protection. It is a historic fact that many of them perished or were imprisoned and persecuted, or had to flee as refugees in boats or overland into Malaysia or Thailand.

The practical implications are that people have long memories and if Kiwi troops are again deployed in the future, those who are asked to work with our forces will be prepared to do so, confident that New Zealand will do the right thing by them when the withdrawal comes if their lives and security is at risk. They have helped us and we are doing the right thing by them.

“New Zealand has followed the good precedents set by Canada and other ISAF countries by taking this step. I certainly believe that the United States should be taking far greater steps to protect their interpreters and many Afghan support staff than has been evident so far. Hopefully, the example now set by our Government will motivate them to consider their policies.”

These Afghan interpreters and their immediate families will almost certainly be targets after the withdrawal next March and will meet the international legal definition of refugees in need of protection. “We are also gratified that the Government is leaving the door open on a case-by-case basis for the other interpreters who have served in the past and might be also at risk.”

The Refugee Council of New Zealand is gratified and buoyed by this positive move by the Government and fully supports it as the right decision which will be strongly supported by the public. RCNZ will be ready to support and assist the interpreters and families when they arrive for resettlement.

Web www.rcnz.org

ENDS

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