‘Total betrayal’: Afghan interpreters shocked as New Zealand ends Kabul evacuation | Afghanistan

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Afghan interpreters left behind after New Zealand ceased its mercy flights are shocked and terrified at being stranded, saying it is a “total betrayal” by the New Zealand government.

The Guardian spoke to an Afghan interpreter, Ali* who was approved for a resettlement visa in New Zealand due to fears of reprisal from the Taliban for assisting allied forces. He remains in Kabul, and is in contact with a group of 37 other translators, interpreters and other people who assisted New Zealand forces in Afghanistan. He says none of them have been evacuated.

Told that the New Zealand government had ended its evacuation flights, he said, “It’s shocking news. I can’t believe it at all. No. I can’t believe it.”

“What will happen to us? To all 37 people who have the visas and have worked directly [for New Zealand]?” Ali asked.

“My message is to not leave us behind. It’s a total betrayal. The government could seek another way.”

On Friday morning, prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced New Zealand was ending further flights into Kabul, due to the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks. The announcement followed an attack at the airport on Thursday that killed least 60 Afghans and 13 US soldiers.

Australia has also ended its airlift. The US has said it would press on with evacuation efforts despite the attack.

Speaking at a press conference alongside the defence force, Ardern said the window for evacuating people “has now closed” with the attack.

Ardern did not know how many visa holders from Afghanistan were in the country, nor how many of those registered on SafeTravel managed to get out.

“But I can say, we know with absolute certainty, we did not get everyone out,” she said.

She said New Zealand had not given up on trying to bring visa-holders home. “The future evacuation will look different to what it has to date, and it will be difficult and it may take longer, but we are not giving up on bringing those who need to come home, home.”

Ali provided the Guardian with multiple documents to prove his work with New Zealand and allied occupying forces. A New Zealand defence force member who served in Afghanistan also verified Ali’s story to the Guardian, and that New Zealand forces had used his services.

Ali, along with a number of other Afghan workers and translators, had made a number of applications to come to New Zealand in the months leading up to Kabul’s fall. Those applications were widely reported on by New Zealand media. They were repeatedly turned down by the government. According to Stuff, immigration minister Kris Faafoi wrote to the group on 5 July to say the government was not looking to “extend” assistance to the former workers.

Ali said the group of translators were now asking that the government work with them on other pathways out of the country, such as flying out via Pakistan, or being evacuated by other allied forces.

The US, which is controlling Kabul airport, is due to withdraw on 31 August. Pentagon officials said on Wednesday that there were still 10,000 people at the airport waiting to be evacuated. The British defence secretary said Afghans who wanted to flee to Britain might be better off “trying to get to the border” than awaiting evacuation.

The Guardian has approached the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade for comment.

*Ali’s full name has been omitted for safety reasons.

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