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No Afghan interpreters to be left behind

Tuesday 13 Nov 2012 2:24 p.m.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman (Photosport)

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman (Photosport)

The Government is promising no Afghan workers who have helped New Zealand troops in Bamyan will be left behind to face the threat of death from insurgents when soldiers withdraw next year.

The Government last month announced about 23 interpreters currently working with the Defence Force in Bamyan, and their families, will be offered resettlement in New Zealand or three years' salary so they can relocate inside Afghanistan.

However, former interpreters were not covered by the original announcements, and voiced fears they could be killed by the Taliban when the Provincial Reconstruction Team withdraws.

Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman today said the Government is also looking to assist all 48 interpreters who have worked for New Zealand in Afghanistan since 2003, and potentially other locally employed staff as well.

"We're not going to leave anyone behind who may genuinely be at risk ... We're going to consider all factors and we're going to give everyone a fair hearing," he told media.

"At the end of the day, you can't prove that there's not a risk and so that's why we've said all along that we'll act in good faith ... We're looking at the wider picture but we're not making any promises at this stage."

Dr Coleman said he expected to make a further announcement over the coming weeks.

He was unable to say what the potential cost might be.

"It's not a matter of how much it's going to cost, it's a matter of doing the right thing and making sure that we look after people who have served New Zealand and enabled us to do our job over there."

Dr Coleman said there have been some approaches to the Government by former interpreters, while others have contacted the media.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy has previously said interpreters who come to New Zealand won't be refugees or asylum seekers.

They will be granted residence under a discretion allowed in the Immigration Act and will be offered a six-week resettlement programme at the Mangere refugee centre.


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