New Afghan Kiwis raring to go

CHRIS HYDE
Last updated 14:57 20/06/2013
Afghan kiwis
WARWICK SMITH/ Fairfax NZ
WELCOME HOME: Afghan interpreters Jafar Ali (left) and Hasan Noori talk with Work and Income broker Garth Hobbs (right).

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"We haven't come here to sit and eat" was the message delivered by 10 Afghan interpreters as they began the hunt for jobs in their new city.

Among the dreams shared by the interpreters with Work and Income officials at a special meeting were the desire to find work in horticulture, retail, construction and small business ownership.

The interpreters and their families arrived in Palmerston North on Friday after being granted resettlement by the New Zealand Government in recognition of the risks posed to their lives by the Taliban when Kiwi troops withdrew from Bamiyan.

One immigrant, Jafar Ali, is considering opening his own dairy.

Ali said he would be happy to start work straight away and experience in retail for a couple of months could be a way of achieving his goal.

"In order to survive here we have to get jobs eventually," he said.

"There's only one thing on our mind and that is that in two or three years we don't want people to think they have made a big mistake by bringing us here.

"We want people to be proud of us and we want to be proud of ourselves."

Work and Income will keep a close eye on each of the interpreters to make sure they are not exploited by workplaces, and to help them find a job that suits their experience.

They will be able to claim a transition-to-work grant of up to $1500 to help clothe them for the workplace and incentives to hire them may be offered to local employers.

Ministry of Social Development regional commissioner Penny Rounthwaite said the interpreters' ability to speak fluent English made them a unique group of resettlers.

"They have got that English under the belt and they are so motivated and ready to progress.

"They will be away and racing."

Four specialist work brokers talked to the interpreters yesterday and noted down the skills they had picked up in Afghanistan that could be transferable to work in New Zealand.

Mohammad Askar Habibi's skill set is longer than most.

He worked for four years as an interpreter with the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, but also has two years experience teaching primary and high school children in Bamiyan, two years as a taxi driver, two years as a truck driver and time as a transport logistics manager.

It has been a whirlwind couple of days for the families as they settle into their new homes.

Volunteers have been walking the families around their new neighbourhoods and introducing them to important places.

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Several children have now started at local schools, with Freyberg High School welcoming Habibi's oldest son on Tuesday.

- Manawatu Standard

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