20 Jun 2014

Pleas 'ignored' to keep Afghans together

10:49 am on 20 June 2014

An Afghan interpreter settled by the Red Cross in Palmerston North says the organisation ignored their pleas to keep the community together.

Hassan Mussa says four of the 10 families who were settled in the city have already left, mainly because there's no Shi'ite mosque there.

Mr Mussa said officials at the Mangere resettlement centre told them there was a mosque in Palmerston North, but when they arrived they found it was Sunni.

The Red Cross says Palmerston North was chosen partly because of the nearby Linton Army Base, as many of the interpreters have close ties to soldiers with whom they served in Afghanistan.

The aid agency's national manager of refugee services, Molly Kennedy, said on Thursday the fact that four out of 10 families have left does not mean the settlement process has failed.

Ms Kennedy says religion, community support and availability of housing and other services are taken into account when choosing a location.

Thirty interpreters who worked with New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team or police in Afghanistan took up the Government's offer of relocation in 2012 and were settled in Palmerston North and Hamilton.