21 Oct 2013

Afghan SAS interpreters say requests ignored

11:19 am on 21 October 2013

Six Afghan interpreters who worked for the New Zealand SAS say their requests for asylum have been ignored by the Government.

Nine more Afghan interpreters who worked for the Provincial Reconstruction Team were this month granted New Zealand residency. On Friday, Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse said he wasn't aware of any more Afghan interpreters seeking resettlement.

Correspondent Jon Stephenson has recently returned from Kabul where he spoke to several SAS interpreters. They say they face death if they remain in Afghanistan, but after an earlier appeal to the military for asylum, the New Zealand embassy in Kabul told them they were not considered at-risk.

Mr Stephenson told Radio New Zealand's Morning Report programme the men made a number of requests to the New Zealand Government, starting in 2010 with an asylum request forwarded through the New Zealand Defence Force.

He said they told him they wrote to Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman and Mr Woodhouse this year and were told by Mr Coleman to write again to Immigration New Zealand applying for resettlement under a specific section of the Immigration Act, but did not follow up and make that final application.

Mr Stephenson said the interpreters feel the officials have enough information about them and their work to make a decision.

The Immigration Minister's office said on Monday that Mr Woodhouse had consistently said anyone not in the original package should write directly to him, but had not heard from the six interpreters.