Foreign Affairs Minister Nanaia Mahuta has announced New Zealand will send a Special Representative for Afghanistan to the Middle East to support New Zealand citizens, permanent residents and other visa holders who want to leave Afghanistan as the humanitarian situation on the ground continues to deteriorate.
“We have now granted visas for over 1250 individuals and are focusing on how we can support those eligible to enter New Zealand,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
“While we can’t go into specifics of individual visas granted given privacy and security considerations, I can note that while granting visas Ministers supported members of the judiciary, human rights workers and prominent women who required assistance, and we have supported visas like this in a number of cases.
The move follows a military deployment in August that secured the evacuation of 393 New Zealand visa holders from Afghanistan. A further 35 individuals have arrived in New Zealand since.
“This has been one of the largest and most complex humanitarian responses we have ever undertaken, and the extremely challenging environment in which we are trying to work presents a range of risks,” Nanaia Mahuta said.
“As we continue to try help people who have been able to cross land borders into neighbouring countries, I am appointing a Special Representative for Afghanistan to support our efforts on the ground and work closely with our partners to secure onward travel out of the region and on to New Zealand.
“This operation is highly dependent on multilateral cooperation with likeminded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan who have borne the brunt of those fleeing the Taliban. A Special Representative will help lead discussions, as well as work with other staff to help confirm and verify those who have managed to cross the border.
“The initial evacuation mission was a hugely challenging operation and while it was clear we were never going to be able to evacuate all who wished to leave in that time, we were still able to bring hundreds of people home amid a deteriorating security situation. New Zealand’s efforts played a key role in supporting the international humanitarian efforts.
“We are focused on the second phase of our response in Afghanistan. This means working through the financial, legal, health and security challenges that Afghan nationals who try to travel will face, as well as the practical realities of travelling to New Zealand in a global pandemic.
“Officials are also assessing what further humanitarian support New Zealand can provide, as well as the immigration pathways available. We are aware of other countries announcing allocations within their current refugee quotas, but we wish to fully understand the best path forward for Afghan nationals and New Zealanders.
“We will be maintaining pressure on the Taliban to uphold human rights including for women and girls and other vulnerable groups,” Nanaia Mahuta said.