Afghans living in this country are calling for broad support for the people who will be evacuated from Kabul once they arrive in New Zealand.
Time is quickly running out as the Taliban insist that all foreign forces must be out of the country on Tuesday.
The New Zealand Defense Force has 19 personnel on the ground at Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport and one C-130 Hercules operating from a base in the Middle East.
So far, two groups of people with connections to New Zealand have been removed from the country.
For safety and security reasons, the actual number of evacuees has not been published.
The Foreign and Trade Ministry said it was aware of large numbers of New Zealanders, their families and other visa holders in Afghanistan who were eligible to enter New Zealand and was providing support to many of them.
He said that his ability to help people on the ground was very limited.
NZDF Joint Forces Commander Rear Admiral Jim Gilmour said the situation on the ground remained extremely challenging and it had been distressing to see the chaotic scenes outside the airport and the desperation of some of those who wanted to leave Afghanistan.
Officials have been working hard to get information to New Zealanders and eligible citizens seeking to evacuate, he said.
Diamond Kazimi, a former NZDF interpreter in Afghanistan who now lives in Aotearoa, said time was fast running out for those who wanted to get out of Kabul.
He believed that some 200 people linked to New Zealand had yet to be evacuated.
“We only have a couple more days, so I have a doubt that we will not be able to get everyone out, which again will be very difficult and they will face the consequences of being associated with New Zealand.” governmental agencies. Yes, it will be very difficult for them. ”
New Zealand’s response has been too little too late, Kazimi said.
” Neighboring nations like Australia, USA, UK and Canada are bringing thousands (out) and they have already done so, they have already reached 5-6000 people who have managed to evacuate. We have only been able to evacuate about 50-60 people. ”
Kazimi said New Zealand government agencies had plenty of time, starting around 2013, to repatriate those with Kiwi connections.
The Afghan community here said it was vital that evacuees receive broad support once they arrived and entered MIQ.
The secretary of the Afghan Association, Khairullah Azizi, said the evacuees would be traumatized and, as some could not speak English, they would need a lot of help.
Being at MIQ would add to the stress, he said.
“They’ve been through a lot and these are scenes and things that New Zealanders generally aren’t going to have seen and can’t really relate to.”
His wife was still in Kabul, but had contacted NZDF personnel on the ground and was likely to leave.
“She has tried four times to get here and each time it has gone from bad to worse, so it is an accumulation of all those vents that she is going to think about and on top of that she is also going to think about the fact that her family is staying. only there. She is the only one left of her family. ”
Azizi said family members in New Zealand should be able to enter MIQ with evacuees.
” As soon as they land and have to go down to MIQ and spend two weeks alone without support and after having gone through everything they have been through in Afghanistan, it is going to be a bit difficult and that’s why we thought about whether the government would allow it or not. For example, someone like me who has a wife who is getting on, whether or not I could spend time with her, those two weeks.
“Not only was I going to get a free ride, I’m also willing to pay for that.”
Kazimi said it was important that once they left MIQ, a support network was put around them.
” It would be better if they spent a couple of weeks at the Māngere Refugee Center so that they can go through the whole orientation process, making sure they understand the education system, employment, health, everything and I think there is a program in their place, but I’m not sure if these people would be receiving those services. “
Acting Deputy Director for New Zealand Immigration (INZ) Stephen Vaughan said he was working closely with MIQ and would provide resettlement support.
INZ was working to, whenever possible, have everyone from Afghanistan in the same MIQ facility, provide a welcome pack in their own language, along with a phone to call the family, and have vaccinated interpreters available, he said. .
In addition, INZ had been working hard to facilitate visas for Afghan nationals who met the criteria to be part of the rescue mission and to help screen these people before they arrived in New Zealand.
” To ensure that these individuals can enter New Zealand despite current border restrictions, the Immigration Minister agreed to changes to the entry immigration instructions at the New Zealand border to allow entry for these individuals.
“This means that people who were in Afghanistan on August 15, 2021 and have a valid temporary or resident visa are exempt from border restrictions and can enter New Zealand.”
The Refugee Quota Program within INZ will assign case resolution officers to each family, conduct daily checks, and provide support and information as needed.
” All first-time arrivals in New Zealand will receive the standard settlement support that refugees arriving under the annual quota would receive and will be able to participate in parts of the reception program focused on working and living in New Zealand, as well as classes English language.
“Ongoing support will continue to be provided to these families as they move into the community in the same way that you would any toll refugee.”
MIQ Joint Chief Megan Main said returnees had the same rights as other occupants of managed isolation facilities.
” While most returnees so far are in family groups, any of them can submit a waiver request to allow a family member to join them in controlled isolation. This process would be supported by the facility staff and the Refugee and Migrant Services team. ”