Six Afghan interpreters who worked alongside Victoria Cross
holder Willie Apiata and other New Zealand SAS soldiers will
be resettled in New Zealand, but there are still fears for
the safety of other workers including one who narrowly
escaped execution at the hands of the Taliban.
Immigration Minister Michael Woodhouse has agreed to relocate
the six interpreters within three to four months in
recognition of their support for the SAS (Special Air
Service) between 2009 and 2011.
Ten of their family members will also be resettled, probably
in Hamilton or Palmerston North.
The men are believed to have helped in high-profile missions
including the defence of the Afghan Presidential Palace in
January 2010 - during which Corporal Apiata was famously
photographed - and an operation in Kabul a year later in
which SAS soldier Corporal Doug Grant was killed.
Mr Woodhouse said yesterday: "It's felt that the interpreters
who worked side by side with our soldiers and in plain view
of the public were exposed to a special degree of risk that
warranted the offer that was made by the New Zealand
"They'll be great New Zealanders ... and I think we've done
the right thing by them."
In all, 45 interpreters have been offered resettlement along
with 100 family members. Two more applications are being
There were fears for one of these applicants, a 27-year-old
known as Hamid, after it was revealed yesterday that he had
been kidnapped and tortured by insurgents for three days
before escaping in December.
Kabul-based journalist John Stephenson told Radio New Zealand
that Hamid had received threats from Taliban members
immediately after New Zealand forces withdrew last year, and
was kidnapped weeks later.
Labour and the Greens demanded that the Government fast-track
Mr Woodhouse said he was seeking more information on Hamid's
work with New Zealand's Provincial Reconstruction Team.
He said the Government had been generous in relocating nearly
150 Afghans, while rejecting only five applications.
Prime Minister John Key said that those who worked in Afghan
communities with New Zealand troops were "widely recognised"
and at greater risk.
"Not every person who was assigned to the New Zealand
operation ... had that level of profile."
The six SAS interpreters were not originally considered for
resettlement because they fell outside Cabinet criteria.
Interpreters must have worked with the Defence Force within
the last two years and be deemed at-risk because of their
association with foreign forces.
Some of the group told the Herald last year that they feared
for their lives. An interpreter known as Mohammad said he
slept with a pistol under his pillow after a warning notice
was nailed to his door by insurgents.
This notice was signed by a Taliban commander and said he had
committed "abominable and disgraceful acts as translator and
- by Isaac Davison of the NZ Herald