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Jonathan Coleman, Nathan Guy

26 October, 2012

Afghan interpreters offered resettlement

A group of Afghan interpreters working for the New Zealand Defence Force and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Bamyan will be offered resettlement in New Zealand.

Defence Minister Dr Jonathan Coleman and Immigration Minister Nathan Guy announced today an assistance package for the 23 interpreters currently employed by the Provincial Reconstruction Team.

Cabinet approved the package on Tuesday and a process is underway to communicate the decision to the interpreters in Bamyan.

The package allows for interpreters to be resettled in New Zealand with their immediate dependents or opt for a three year salary payment so that they can relocate elsewhere in Afghanistan, should they wish to do so.

"The interpreters are playing a critical role in the operation of the PRT in Bamyan enabling the PRT to interact effectively with the local population," said Dr Coleman.

"Offering assistance to current interpreters employed by the government reflects the view that New Zealand should demonstrate a duty of care to this group who have served New Zealand with the work of the Provincial Reconstruction Team," he said.

Immigration Minister Nathan Guy says the interpreters are not "refugees" as defined by the Refugee Convention or have asylum seeker status, but will be granted residence under a discretion offered by Section 72 of the Immigration Act.

"Those who wish to come to New Zealand will be offered the same initial resettlement arrangements as offered under the annual refugee quota, including a six week resettlement programme at the Mangere Refugee Centre.

"They will not displace refugees offered places under our United Nations High Commissioners for Refugees (UNHCR) quota of 750 people per year," says Mr Guy.

Approximately 73 people would be offered places if all currently employed interpreters and their immediate dependents elected to take residency.