Afghanistan falls: NZ closes door on Afghan resettlement applications

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Aug 2021, 9:36AM
A New Zealand military plane evacuation from Kabul. (Photo / NZDF)
A New Zealand military plane evacuation from Kabul. (Photo / NZDF)

Afghanistan falls: NZ closes door on Afghan resettlement applications

Author
Kurt Bayer, NZ Herald,
Publish Date
Thu, 26 Aug 2021, 9:36AM

New Zealand is no longer taking resettlement applications from Afghan nationals, citing the "rapidly deteriorating situation" in Afghanistan and a diminishing window for evacuations. 

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been helping more than 200 people in Afghanistan in recent days but has warned that their ability to help people outside the airport, where the situation is volatile, is limited. 

A Royal New Zealand Air Force (RNZAF) C-130 has been deployed on an emergency mercy dash to capital Kabul's airport. 

But while a US-led operation has secured the inside of the airport, the Taliban, which took control of the country in dramatic scenes over the last fortnight, continues to monitor checkpoints outside the airport, where there has been reports of shootings and desperate stampedes. 

The US has also said that they will put out by August 31, meaning the end of organised evacuation missions. 

It's all led to MFAT this morning announcing that New Zealand is no longer accepting applications from Afghan nationals for resettlement in New Zealand. 

"The New Zealand Government is working urgently with our international partners to support New Zealanders to return safely and, over the longer term, to support the people of Afghanistan," a spokeswoman said. 

"Our priority for this mission was always a time-sensitive one; to evacuate New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and those at risk due to their association with New Zealand via the criteria set by Cabinet. 

"There have been, and continue to be, huge challenges to managing the evacuation of New Zealanders, their families and eligible Afghan nationals from Kabul. 

"The imminent withdrawal of the US from Hamid Karzai International Airport, which has been critical to sustain our operations in Kabul, means that our ability to help individuals on the ground is very limited. 

"We cannot guarantee that we will be able to assist all those we are seeking to evacuate." 

MFAT says Aotearoa New Zealand has played its part in international efforts supporting the evacuation of foreign nationals and those Afghan citizens most at risk, despite the situation in Afghanistan deteriorating "much faster than originally thought". 

"We will continue to play our part," the spokeswoman added. 

A number of individuals and family groups have already been brought home from Afghanistan to New Zealand. 

More eligible people are safely in transit after flying out of Kabul. 

"While our focus remains on getting as many people out of Kabul as possible via the current available route for the short amount of time possible, we are discussing with partners potential next steps and how the New Zealand Government can best assist and support Afghan nationals in other ways," the MFAT spokeswoman said. 

"We continue to work with the utmost urgency with our close partners to assist New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and their immediate families in Afghanistan, to return to New Zealand."