RNZAF evacuates New Zealanders and Australians from Afghanistan

5:14 pm on 24 August 2021

A Royal New Zealand Air Force C-130 Hercules has returned to its base in the Middle East after evacuating New Zealand and Australian nationals from Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan.

People boarding the Hercules C-130 at Hamid Karzai International Airport.

People boarding the Hercules C-130 at Hamid Karzai International Airport. Photo: NZ Defence Force

The New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) has about 80 personnel deployed in the Middle East region supporting international efforts to evacuate New Zealanders and other nationals from Afghanistan.

A team of 19 personnel based at Hamid Karzai International Airport (HKIA) in Kabul have been liaising with evacuees and working alongside partner nations to facilitate evacuations.

Last night the Hercules made its first flight into Kabul, arriving at a base in the United Arab Emirates in the early hours of this morning (NZT) with both New Zealand and Australian evacuees on board. They are being assisted and their onward travel facilitated by other agencies.

The group had been supported at an evacuation centre prior to departure.

Evacuees preparing to leave Afghanistan (faces are blurred for privacy).

Evacuees preparing to leave Afghanistan (faces are blurred for privacy). Photo: NZ Defence Force

Commander Joint Forces New Zealand Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said he was proud of the NZDF team working to safely evacuate New Zealanders and other nationals from Afghanistan.

"We're continuing to work alongside agencies and partner nations to evacuate New Zealanders, their families and other visa holders in Afghanistan," he said in a statement.

He said it was a multi-agency effort in collaboration with partner nations.

"We're still working to get others evacuated but we're pleased to get this group of evacuees onto our Hercules aircraft and out to a safe base, and to have worked closely with our Australian counterparts on the return of other evacuees home to New Zealand."

Yesterday, the first evacuees from Afghanistan arrived in New Zealand after being earlier evacuated from Kabul on a Royal Australian Air Force flight.

Defence Minister Peeni Henare yesterday said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) had been in contact with more than 200 New Zealanders in Afghanistan.

He said MFAT had also been working with Immigration New Zealand (INZ) to secure visas for those Afghans determined by the government as having worked alongside the defence force, police and aid missions, or helped with the Operation Burnham inquiry.

People being evacuated and preparing to leave Afghanistan.

Photo: NZ Defence Force

Australia evacuated 300 people on four flights out of Kabul on Saturday, including some New Zealanders.

The government a week ago announced plans to evacuate New Zealanders and those who had helped New Zealand efforts in Afghanistan after the Taliban took control of the capital, Kabul, and declared the war over.

The group's securing of the country took place much faster than international observers expected after the United States pulled its troops out, and led to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani fleeing the country.

The Taliban has promised safety and security, and vowed to preserve women's rights, but there have been reports of a door-to-door manhunt for those who helped New Zealand and women's groups are sceptical of the Taliban's promises.

There have been violent scenes as thousands hoping to flee the country try to pass through barricades being manned by Taliban members.

There are reports the Taliban has even blocked those with the necessary documents to travel.

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