New Zealand has managed to retrieve a further 11 citizens, residents, and their family members from Taliban-ruled Kabul.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) confirmed on Friday that 11 people on its evacuation list had been flown out of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, on a Qatari Airways flight, adding to another 11 Afghan nationals with New Zealand visas and a citizen who arrived in the country this week.
The Government earlier this month said there were 1100 people in Afghanistan granted visas to enter New Zealand, and before that counted more than a hundred citizens and permanent residents that remained in the country after the Taliban claimed power in August.
On Thursday night, during a roundtable discussion held by online videoconference, members of the Afghan community, non-government organisations, and MPs all said New Zealand needed to offer refuge to more at-risk Afghans and provide more financial aid.
World Vision New Zealand chief executive Grant Bayldon said the United Nations humanitarian response plan for Afghanistan, which is facing major crises including food shortage, was “woefully underfunded”.
“We’re asking for aid beyond the $6 million that the New Zealand Government has already allocated, which is a great start, but we know we can go further. And also for an increased refugee intake, and better pathways, immigration pathways, for people who are at risk from having supported New Zealand aid and development there.”
Abbas Nazari, a former refugee and Fulbright Scholar, said New Zealand had a moral obligation not to abandon the people in Afghanistan who were facing “imminent threat” due to their contribution to New Zealand’s war effort.
“Logistics is hard. There’s no commercial flights going to Afghanistan right now. But I think what makes it harder is that there has been no word from the Government on whether there will be a commitment to bring in an emergency intake of Afghan refugees, as was the case with the Syrian crisis.
“That is weighing heavy on the minds of the Afghan New Zealand community.”
Abbas Nazari was a child refugee who fled Afghanistan 20 years ago. He’s advocating for the Government to do more for Afghans who now live under Taliban rule.
National Party foreign affairs spokesman Gerry Brownlee said that at some point New Zealand had to enter dialogue with the Taliban “to see if those who we can help, can be helped by us”.
“There’s been no set figure put in place for long term repatriation of people out of Afghanistan to New Zealand … And I think Abbas is quite right, after those people who are most affected, most likely to be running foul of the Taliban regime, are extracted from Afghanistan … then open up that family reunification process.”
Labour MP Louisa Wall said providing safe passage out of Afghanistan was the “biggest dilemma”.
“From my perspective, we have an absolute obligation to anybody who has assisted us for 20 years in Afghanistan to be able to come to New Zealand,” she said.
In total, 48 New Zealanders and visa holders had left Afghanistan and reached New Zealand since the end of an evacuation effort in August. The most recent group to leave Kabul were flown out by Qatar.
“New Zealand is grateful for the generous support from the Government of Qatar in providing safe passage of this group,” an MFAT spokeswoman said, in a statement.
The Telegraph reported on Thursday the United Kingdom will send aircraft to the region to land in countries neighbouring Afghanistan to airlift Afghans who worked with the British military. The British Air Force was “also open to picking up stranded foreign nationals of allied states”, the Telegraph reported.
The MFAT spokeswoman said New Zealand was not involved in the United Kingdom’s operation.