4 Oct 2021

Govt urged to speed up visa process for stranded Afghans

11:22 am on 4 October 2021

Afghan people living in this country are pleading with the government not to forget about people with connections to New Zealand still stuck in Afghanistan.

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

A RNZAF C130 landed in Kabul Afghanistan in late August to safely evacuate a number of New Zealanders and Australians. Photo: Supplied / New Zealand Defence Force

They fear those who did not make it out when the Taliban swiftly took control will be ignored now the world's attention has moved on.

A court bid to make sure the government keeps it promise to help, and to speed up the visa process is to be heard in the High Court in November.

The New Zealand Defence Force managed to evacuate over 300-people out of Kabul in late August before a bomb attack near Kabul Airport brought flights to an abrupt end.

It is not known exactly how many people were left behind, but it's been estimated in the hundreds.

The government said a decision will be made soon on what it is calling phase two.

A former interpreter, who worked for the NZDF, Ali Ahmad, and who lives in this country, said those left in Afghanistan are suffering.

''They are still trying to figure out what the government is going to do, what their plan is, we would just like to know. Everything has just gone quiet and they are just saying what to we need to do. Some of them are actually running out of money, because they have moved houses and don't have jobs, yeah, it is very tough for them at the moment.''

He said they still fear for their lives.

''Taliban has already started doing door to door knocking to try and identify and match the details they already hold and if they do, it's the end of them.''

The Secretary of the Afghan Association of New Zealand, Kairullah Azizi said the government needs to act fast.

''These are families of New Zealand citizens and everything else we are talking about here and it has a ripple effect on the lives of people.''

Azizi wants New Zealand and other governments around the world to get some dialogue going with the Taliban, so basic human rights are respected.

''They need to make sure that just because someone was carrying out his duty previously under the Afghan government, he or she should not be killed. Basic human rights need to be upheld.''

He said the government needs to expand the criteria allowing more people into New Zealand.

''Those whose lives are in danger.''

Azizi said the government needs to act fast.

''It's not the ordinary time where they can just take their time and go for 100-points and think about it. Action needs to be taken and needs to be taken quickly.''

Community Law is seeking a Judicial Review of the visa process.

Chief Executive Sue Moroney said while it failed to get an interim injunction at the time of the crisis breaking, it's awaiting the substantive hearing in November and has now added further legal action to be considered in the review.

''The Crown has said there is this other temporary visa that these people should be and could be applying for. So we have been through that process and almost all of them were declined, those visas as well. They are called critical purpose visitor visas. And so we have now added a new legal challenge to the Judicial Review to challenge the narrow criteria being applied to the humanitarian grounds for those visas.''

Moroney said it is not consistent with immigration instructions, international law or the Bill of Rights.

She said they are contesting seven legal grounds in the Judicial Review.

''The government unlawfully suspended the processing of refugee family reunification visas. We secondly now are challenging how narrow the criteria was being applied to the temporary visas and we are also challenging the decision of the government about resettlement being confined to immediate family of those assisting the New Zealand Defence Force as being too narrow.''

Sue Moroney said it also includes not recognising the danger to the lives of wider family members.

The Judicial Review will be held in the High Court, Wellington on November 3rd and 4th.

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