According to an interpreter who served for the New Zealand Defence Force in Afghanistan, time is running out to leave, with stories of the Taliban going door-to-door hunting for anyone who collaborated with the government.
Basir Ahmad is in hiding in Kabul. He and 34 others from the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) have been promised a flight out.
They were becoming increasingly anxious over how that would actually happen, he said.
“Each person calls me 10 or 20 times each day asking for that information and I don’t have it. They say how can we get to the airport, because the airport is chaos … it’s out of control.”
Everyone was scattered around Kabul, he said.
“Some of them are scared to disclose their location as a matter of security. But they call me and tell me that right now in Bamyan the Taliban are searching houses and they have started searching door-by-door for the people who work for New Zealand PRT.”
Ahmad said two people from the NZ PRT were having issues with their documents and might not be able to get on the flight.
The group had contacted the New Zealand government before the Afghan government fell, asking for help to leave, he said.
“They said they were having discussion and they said we should wait.”
A week ago the government surrendered to the Taliban.
“Some of us then moved to the mountains and others went to Kabul where they went through Taliban checkpoints, they were searching for information and documentation, but they couldn’t find any documents.”
The decision to bring the NZ PRT out was a “life-saving decision” and Ahmad was looking forward to receiving advice on how to leave with the Defence Force.
“It’s sad to see this country in this situation.”
Meanwhile, University of Waikato law professor Alexander Gillespie said New Zealand had a responsibility to take more Afghan citizens who were at risk of Taliban retribution.
Other allies had agreed to up their refugee quota and include women, journalists and those previously in positions of power.
“Canada’s taken 20,000 people, the UK’s taken 20,000 people, Australia’s taken 3000 people.
“Yet New Zealand has not yet made a statement on whether it will change its refugee quota and bring in these people.”
Gillespie said it was a difficult topic, but one that needed to be talked about.
“I think we have a responsibility to do that because we were involved in this conflict.
“By parallel, the last time this happened was in the Vietnam War and again, we were on the losing side. New Zealand put its hand up and took over 1500 people in the late 1970s. We now need to follow that same precedent and show our responsibility again towards these people who are at extreme risk.”