8 Oct 2012

Govt looking at helping Afghan interpreters

9:59 pm on 8 October 2012

The New Zealand Government is looking at whether assistance can be given to Afghan interpreters who have been working with Defence Force troops.

Radio New Zealand's correspondent in Afghanistan Jon Stephenson says about two dozen translators are worried about their safety when the New Zealand soldiers with the Provincial Reconstruction Team withdraw from Bamyan next year.

They fear they could be in danger of execution if captured by the Taliban because of their work supporting foreign troops.

Prime Minister John Key says the Government is seeking advice on what risks the translators would face if they remain in Afghanistan.

"They've worked for New Zealand with New Zealand's best interests at heart, and it's at least feasible that there is some risk to them if they remain in Afghanistan. Now we need to tease and test all of that out - I can at least understand the case they're making."

One option that has been raised is assistance with settlement in New Zealand, and Mr Key says the Government is also getting advice on that.

Labour Party leader David Shearer says New Zealand must stand by these people and either bring them to New Zealand or find positions for them in other missions in Afghanistan.

"One way or the other, we owe it to these people to make sure that they are safe. They have kept us safe; they can pick up things in the street which pre-warn our people from going into areas that could be dangerous. We owe them their lives, basically."

New Zealand forces are due to leave Afghanistan in April 2013.