More Afghan interpreters aided

MICHELLE COOKE
Last updated 14:23 12/12/2012
JONATHAN COLEMAN
PHIL REID
Jonathan Coleman.

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The Government has extended its resettlement package for Afghan interpreters but will not help to resettle mechanics and engineers who have also been employed by the Defence Force.

Twenty-three interpreters working alongside New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan were told two months ago that they and their immediate dependents would have the opportunity to either come to New Zealand or accept a three-year salary payment so that they can relocate elsewhere in Afghanistan.

Another six interpreters who were employed by the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan after December, 2010, would also be offered the package, Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman said today.

A further four interpreters working for the New Zealand Police in Bamiyan would also be eligible.

About 116 people, including the interpreters and their dependents, would be offered the package, which amounts to about $8.95 million.

The resettlement package does not extend to mechanics, engineers and other staff employed by the team, but they would be offered monetary assistance.

All 28 staff who are not interpreters and who were currently employed by the PRT would receive a one-year salary while 18 engineers and mechanics who have worked in Bamiyan’s north-east would also receive a $10,000 lump sum payment to help them cover relocation costs to another area in Afghanistan, Coleman said.

“As the government previously indicated, it was keeping an open mind on its assistance response, and as a result Cabinet has agreed to this further package,” Coleman said.

“The local employees have provided valuable service and particularly the interpreters as they worked side by side with the PRT on patrols. This is a balance duty of care package that is both affordable and manageable.”

The risk to the interpreters was greater than to other staff as they often worked on the front line with soldiers, Coleman said.

Of the 23 offered the resettlement package in October, 21 have accepted. It was expected that they would continue to work for the PRT until the team leaves Afghanistan in April next year. They are likely to arrive in New Zealand shortly after.   

They would have to meet immigration checks, including health checks.

The interpreters and their families would spend six weeks at the Mangere Refugee Resettlement Centre in Auckland before being helped to find a home, purchase furniture, set up bank accounts, IRD numbers and so forth.

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The risks posed to interpreters who work outside Bamiyan or were employed prior to December 2010 was judged as low, which was why they wouldn’t be offered the package.

- Stuff

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