26 Oct 2012

Afghan interpreters, families offered NZ visas

6:30 pm on 26 October 2012

The Government will offer up to 25 Afghan interpreters working with New Zealand troops in Afghanistan a chance to settle in this country.

A spokesperson for Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman has confirmed the Cabinet agreed to a resettlement package on Tuesday for Afghan interpreters working with the Defence Force contingent in Bamyan province.

The interpreters fear that when New Zealand's forces withdraw next year they could be in danger if captured by the Taliban, because of their work supporting foreign troops.

Mr Coleman says work is under way to tell the interpreters themselves about the offer, and a formal announcement is expected later.

Radio New Zealand understands up to 25 interpreters are employed by the Defence Force in Bamyan, and the agreement will also cover their immediate family members.

Labour leader David Shearer says resettlement must be carried out quickly as it will be more difficult to arrange once New Zealand troops have gone.

Interpreter granted UK asylum

Separately, the BBC reports that an Afghan interpreter who fled to Britain after getting death threats from the Taliban has been granted political asylum.

The man, known as Mohammad, applied for asylum saying the Taliban had threatened to kill him if he returned to Afghanistan.

The British border agency initially refused his application, saying he did not have evidence that he was an Afghan or that his life was under threat - despite supporting evidence being provided by British officers.

But Leicester East MP Keith Vaz took up Mohammad's case and says he should never have had to go through such a lengthy process with the bureaucracy.