Civilians who have worked with NZDF are begging Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to help them escape the Taliban. Video / Supplied
The government is examining the desperate immigration cases of former Afghan performers and other civilians who contributed to New Zealand’s war effort in Afghanistan as the Taliban continue to take control of the country.
A group of 38 Afghan civilians who assisted the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team (NZ PRT) in Bamyan province – including interpreters, carpenters, electricians, mechanics, housekeepers and kitchen workers – fear deadly retaliation as Taliban now resurfaces Kiwis, Americans and other NATO allies have abandoned the country.
Provinces, districts and cities are falling daily as the die-hard Islamist group has unleashed itself in Afghanistan over the past month.
The number of civilians killed and injured in the first six months of 2021 returned to record levels from 2014 to 2018, according to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (Unama).
The Herald reported last month that civilians working with the New Zealand Defense Force (NZDF) – which in May ended their 20-year involvement in a distant conflict that claimed the lives of 10 Kiwis and 300 million dollars – fled Bamyan and entered hiding in remote mountainous areas, crossing borders to other districts or seeking refuge in Kabul.
Although New Zealand has resettled 44 former Afghan interpreters and staff, as well as 96 immediate family members since 2012-13, many more have seen their immigration applications turned down in recent months.
But now, as the security situation worsens, it appears the New Zealand government is reconsidering its position on their cases.
When Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi was asked this afternoon what was being done to help those who worked with the NZDF during the war in Afghanistan, he replied: “We are looking at this.
“It is difficult for us to understand exactly how many might want to apply for a course [to residency]… We also need to have discussions on the NZDF on how we might determine who might be eligible, ”Faafoi said.
But there were discussions going on about what might be possible, and ministers were grappling with what he called an “emerging problem”.
It is not clear exactly how many Afghans might be eligible.
Defense Minister Peeni Henare said his office has been working with Faafoi in recent days.
And although cases of resettlement and residency have been dismissed in the past, and this is ultimately Faafoi’s decision, Henare said, “We will continue to consider them.”
The NZDF has been approached for comment.
NNZ PRT deployments were based in Bamyan. It was there that eight lives were lost, including Lance Corporals Rory Patrick Malone and Pralli Durrer, both killed in the fierce Battle of Baghak, and fifteen days later, on August 19, 2012, Corporal Luke Tamatea, 31 -year-old Lance Corporal Jacinda Baker, 26, and Private Richard Harris, 21, all of whom died when their Humvee struck a 20kg improvised explosive device by the roadside.
Many local civilians worked with the New Zealanders at the Kiwi base.
Bamyan, father of four, Basir Ahmad worked as an interpreter for several rotations of the New Zealand PRT in the 2000s, participating in several dangerous patrol missions.
Speaking to the Herald last month from a secret location, Ahmad said they were surrounded by militant extremists who were “very close”.
“If they find me, where I am speaking right now, they will kill me,” said Ahmad, who was rejected by New Zealand immigration officials last year.
“If the Taliban come to our area, they will slaughter all the people who worked for the New Zealand PRT. They are very determined to kill these people who were working with the foreign troops.
Nowroz Ali, who volunteered to help at the Kiwi base’s front door in 2010, also managed to escape.
“There was no one left in the center of Bamyan and he was about to fall … so I escaped the village,” Ali said, speaking from Kabul.
“I managed to get out, but it’s shocking. On the Bamyan highway [to Kabul], for 5 to 10 km, you could see Taliban everywhere. If they stop you, search you, they put their finger on a biometric machine – they have it now – and they’ll find everything on you. And what will happen to you and your family? Your head will be cut off. “
Major (retired) Craig Wilson, who was the senior officer in the Battle of Baghak, New Zealand’s largest combat battle since Vietnam, believes New Zealand has a moral responsibility for its security even after we left.
“These people have been seen and worked with our own troops and that should count for something,” Wilson said earlier.
“To me, this is the pinnacle of hands-off, overly bureaucratic behavior, which really frustrates me as someone who has served and could vouch for these guys. They are partners of our country in some form or form. other, and I think they should get better treatment than them.
“It wouldn’t hurt our country either, it would be good for us to have them here because they are damn good people.”