Last night several MPs received a letter from a group claiming to be the last five Afghan interpreters who worked with the NZDF and wish to leave Afghanistan but have not been offered any package by the Government.
If there are indeed only five more families that wish to be relocated the Government should act swiftly to grant them asylum. There is no logical justification for denying these former interpreters when all others have had a satisfactory outcome. Their situation is no different to the others.
Here’s what they had to say:
To: Honorable NZ Prime minister, Cabinet and Parliament Members
From: Five former NZDF Interpreters
First of all, we would like to thank on our behalf the Government of the Right Honorable John Key, Prime Minister of New Zealand, for the resettlement offer to the interpreters (our brothers and countrymen). The decision will surely save many lives as all interpreters fear retribution from the Taliban.
Secondly, please kindly consider this letter as an application for the extension of the asylum offer to the five former NZDF interpreters who served the New Zealand Defense Force alongside the Kiwi soldiers in Bamyan Province for several years in the early days of their deployments in Afghanistan, as interpreters/translators and cultural advisers. During our assignments with NZDF soldiers, we accompanied them on numerous patrols all over the province and even outside of the province, as well as on countless meetings with key government officials, warlords/Taliban, Mullahs, village elders and other locals. As most of these meetings were held in public or in contentious areas of the province, it has exposed us as a person working for the coalition forces. We have also appeared in the Media as allies of NZDF. By the end of our time with NZDF, we were very well-known amongst the Taliban, warlords, locals and security forces for having a strong working background with NZPRT. This fame has already put our lives in danger and might end our and our families’ lives once the ISAF/NATO forces leave Afghanistan and the insurgents/ Taliban start re-gaining power.
It was our hope that peace would prevail in Afghanistan, but unfortunately security across the country has deteriorated. The insurgents are on the offensive across most parts of the country gaining control and eliminating those of us who had connections with coalition forces especially interpreters. We have become prisoners of our country and are unable to make a living freely out of fear of the murderous Taliban. As many of us went into hiding due to direct and indirect threats received from Taliban, insurgents, local warlords and corrupt government authorities threatening to kill either us or our family members. These threats were the reason for most of the NZPRT interpreters to quit their jobs or to flee to another country in order to find a safe shelter to save their lives. We, five former interpreters were/are unable to make our way to a safer place and have been seeking assistance from NZ government to resettle us and our families in New Zealand.
Based on the latest announcement from NZ Government, the initial resettlement offer (released on October 2012) was extended to six former NZDF interpreters, but only two out of six are currently living in Afghanistan and have accepted to resettle in New Zealand, the rest (four ex- interpreters) have already resettled in abroad.
Thus, we five former interpreters who are excluded from the resettlement package, humbly requesting NZ Government to consider our cases and include us in the current resettlement offer. We, five former interpreters have full records of our services with NZDF/PRT in Bamyan and have resigned our assignments prior to December 2010.
It is worth mentioning that we are thankful from Immigration Minister, Nathan Guy who stated that we can request the grant of residence under section 72 of the Immigration Act 2009, if we apply through United Nations our cases will be considered sympathetically. We would have applied through UNHCR if, it was even a bit possible for us. According to the UNHCR asylum policies one has to move to another country as a refugee to apply for the third country. If we do so, then our families will starve to death, as most of us are the sole worker at home.
As we all know, once the coalition forces leave, the security will further deteriorate.
As soon as the insurgents regain power or get strong enough would start hunting us down. We are sure they would not let us go just because we are former interpreters and no longer work with coalition forces. We will be dealt equally with current ones.
We are extremely proud of our achievements and affiliation with the New Zealand Defense Force. We hold the women and men of the NZDF in high regard for their bravery, hard work and dedication to the people of Afghanistan.
Your kind consideration for a safe and prosperous future in New Zealand is most timely for us, our families as we live in fear in Afghanistan for what the future holds. Therefore, we are humbly requesting the Government of New Zealand to extend the current asylum offer to us (the only five remained interpreters) as well, as we have been loyal and dedicated employees of NZPRT over the past years.
We are looking forward to hearing a positive response from Honorable New Zealand Government authorities in this regard.
Former Interpreters of NZPRT
If there is any good reason these or any other interpreters are being denied, the Government should make that clear. If not, their continued discrimination is unjustified.