Interpreter 'not local' enough for Waikato

JENNA LYNCH
Last updated 05:00 29/08/2013
Interpreter Raza Khadim
BEN CURRAN/ Fairfax NZ

WORK WANTED: Former interpreter Raza Khadim wants to support his wife, Razia, but he’s told by potential employers that he’s ‘‘not local’’ enough.

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An Afghan man who risked his life to help Kiwi troops is being refused work because he's "not local" enough.

Raza Khadim spent six years working as an interpreter for the New Zealand Defence Force and New Zealand police in Afghanistan. He moved to New Zealand as part of an NZDF relocation programme.

He arrived in Hamilton with his pregnant wife, Razia, in June and a New Zealand Medal of Honour sits proudly on the mantelpiece of their Hamilton East home.

It was awarded to Mr Khadim for his bravery serving with the New Zealand Provincial Reconstruction Team in the Bamiyan province.

The couple say they've settled into Kiwi life.

"When we come home from going out and about, we feel like we're at home. We are settling in," Mr Khadim said. "We really, really like it."

The evidence Mr Khadim had spent so much time with Kiwis is clear. If it wasn't for his slight accent, you would believe he was born a New Zealander.

But, like 11 of the other 19 interpreters who arrived with him, he's been unable to land a job.

Time and again Mr Khadim has been told by managers they need someone a bit more "local".

"The problem I face is the refusal to give us a chance. The answers from people here have been: We want someone local with local experience. That is the challenge. What we need is someone to give us the first opportunity," he said.

When they arrived, interpreters underwent an extensive course to learn about the New Zealand labour force, including some work experience and meeting local businesses.

Mr Khadim wants to land a job in information technology. He wants to support his wife, who is due to give birth to their first child at the end of September.

It's a struggle Rachel O'Connor hears about often in her role as the Hamilton manager for Red Cross refugee services.

"It's that classic thing of having a Kiwi reference," she said.

But Ms O'Connor said the former interpreters were some of the hardest workers out there.

"They've got great references from Kiwis [who they served with] . . . they just really need someone to give them their first chance. Some of these guys are really highly skilled."

Her organisation had hooked them up with many employers and they'd been dropping off hundreds of CVs around the city.

"They are keen just to get their first leg up in New Zealand."

Despite having no work, Mr Khadim said felt much safer now, than in Bamiyan.

"We had a fear in our mind that, if not today, then maybe tomorrow, someone in my family or one of my friends would be killed. We don't get that here; it's peaceful."

Can you help out with a job for Mr Khadim, or any of the other Afghan refugees?

If you can and would like to help, please email news@waikatotimes.co.nz

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- Waikato Times

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