16 Sep 2021

Afghanistan: Pressure stays on NZ government to take action

11:08 am on 16 September 2021

Dozens of organisations and individuals have put their name to an open letter calling on the New Zealand government to give refuge to all Afghan nationals who helped defence forces, and to take at least 1500 Afghan refugees.

An RNZAF C130 landed in Kabul Afghanistan today and safely evacuated a number of New Zealanders and Australians.

An RNZAF C130 evacuating people from Kabul last month. Photo: Supplied / New Zealand Defence Force

Organisations including Amnesty International, Oxfam and World Vision sent the letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta today.

"The needs in Afghanistan are growing by the hour. Right now, there are compounding crises taking place, including hunger, displacement, conflict, and Covid-19. Basic services are collapsing, and aid is running out," the letter said.

"We are concerned that, alongside causing anguish, delays in government action and decisions increase risk of harm to those who need aid from, or safe resettlement to, New Zealand."

It said the government had an obligation to do more.

"The New Zealand government spent 20 years and hundreds of millions of dollars in military expenditure as part of the international intervention in Afghanistan. We have an obligation to the people of Afghanistan to stand by them now. Be it the provision of aid, or safe pathways to New Zealand, the time for response is immediate and the cost of inaction is high."

The letter listed four courses of action, including increasing humanitarian aid "at least double" to Afghanistan and increasing aid to the surrounding countries that were taking on refugees.

The letter said Afghan nationals who had helped the government should be brought here, and New Zealand should take on more refugees as well.

"Evacuate the remaining people in Afghanistan left from the initial mission, and include at risk individuals connected to New Zealand in these efforts."

"Welcome at least 1500 Afghan refugees in this year's current refugee intake, over and above the current Refugee Resettlement Quota commitments, for those at most immediate risk or with connections to Aotearoa."

It asked for the quicker visa processing for Afghan nationals.

New Zealand was currently resettling 370 refugees from Afghanistan.

After the Taliban seized power last month a chaotic evacuation took place before a bomb attack at Kabul airport brought New Zealand flights to an abrupt end.

The letter said the government needed to increase its effort to engage with the Afghan community in new Zealand and do more internationally.

"Drive agreement in the international community to establish a robust investigative mechanism - with a mandate to document, collect and preserve evidence of ongoing crimes and human rights violations across Afghanistan."

Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta said last month Cabinet was exploring a second phase evacuation from Afghanistan, and the effects resettlement would have on New Zealand.

Mahuta told a select committee on 31 August she was not at that point in a position to widen the criteria for allowing people into New Zealand beyond what had earlier been decided by Cabinet.

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