OPINION: Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse showed his beneficent side last week when he announced he had granted New Zealand residence to nine Afghan interpreters and 26 of their family members.
Local interpreters had worked on the front lines with New Zealand personnel in Afghanistan, he said. The Government recognises its duty of care to them and their families.
New Zealand resettled 30 Afghan interpreters and 64 family members in April this year under a package agreed by Cabinet in December 2012. Many of them settled in Hamilton. The package was open to interpreters who had worked for the New Zealand-led Provincial Reconstruction Team within the previous two years.
Interpreters who did not meet the eligibility test could put their case for residency to the minister. The nine interpreters granted residence last week had taken up that invitation. But some genuine cases, perhaps, have been forgotten or overlooked.
According to Radio New Zealand, several SAS interpreters claim they face death if they remain in Afghanistan, but after an appeal to the military for asylum, the New Zealand Embassy in Kabul has advised them they are not considered at risk.
The betrayal of Afghan interpreters who served other countries has become the stuff of critical international headlines of late.
In Britain, Winston Churchill's great-grandson delivered a petition with more than 70,000 signatures to Prime Minister David Cameron's office, demanding action to protect Afghan interpreters who served with British troops.
US army veteran Matt Zeller, intent on getting American visas promised to his former interpreter and family, wrote in a British newspaper: "We made a promise to him and we must stand by our promise. Backing away now … when we know his life is on the line is immoral."
Feedback to the article showed the problem is shamefully widespread. New Zealand Green Party global affairs spokesman Kennedy Graham is pressing Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman to widen the eligibility criteria to include Afghan interpreters who served with our SAS deployment.
Rather than make them jump through bureaucratic hoops in a war zone, our Government should simply offer them amnesty, he contends. He is right. We don't have to follow Britain and the US in everything they do - especially when immoral and unfair.
- Waikato Times