Monday, October 08, 2012

Do the right thing

Next year, New Zealand troops will leave Afghanistan, ending a nine and a half-year deployment, and hopefully our role in an pointless, unwinnable, and immoral war. During their time there, those troops have relied on Afghan interpreters to communicate with the local community. But there are no plans to bring these people back to New Zealand. And as a result, they face certain death:

More than two dozen Afghan interpreters working for New Zealand troops in Bamiyan province are pleading with the Government not to abandon them to "certain death" when the troops withdraw next year.

One interpreter was so concerned about his fate he said he would ask Kiwi soldiers to shoot him and his family rather than be left to the Taleban.

There are 26 Afghan interpreters working for the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Bamiyan.

They are "hoping and praying" they will be granted asylum in New Zealand, believing they will be captured, tortured and slaughtered by insurgent forces, along with their families.

The government is refusing to comment on this, saying only that a decision will be made shortly. But there is only one moral decision they can make. Regardless of what I think of our role in Afghanistan, New Zealand has a responsibility here. These people have a well-founded fear of persecution based on their political allegiance to the occupiers. And that makes them eligible for refugee status under international and New Zealand law. The question is whether the government will recognise that responsibility, or whether they will abandon these people - and if they choose the latter, they have only themselves to blame when one of them decides to save the lives of their family by killing kiwi troops.