Former Afghan Interpreters given New Zealand Citizenship

The Council’s Kaumatua, Tame Pokaia, speaks at Kirikiriroa Marae during the Pōwhiri which preceded the Citizenship Ceremony

On 22 June, 68 former Afghan interpreters and their families became New Zealand citizens at a very special ceremony at Kirikiriroa Marae, Hamilton.

Over 200 people attended, including family, friends, Hamilton Mayor Andrew King, members of the New Zealand’s Defence and Police forces, local Iwi and city officials.

The interpreters assisted New Zealand's effort as a Provincial Reconstruction Team in the war-torn Afghan province of Bamiyan. New Zealand troops spent 10 years in Bamiyan, during which time they heavily relied on local interpreters.

Up to 26 interpreters were considered for asylum after New Zealand withdrew from the region. The interpreters said their work over a long period made their identities known to insurgents and put them at risk. The interpreters and their families were relocated to Hamilton and other New Zealand cities in 2013. Five years on from their arrival they have now become New Zealand citizens.

Hamilton Mayor Andrew King acknowledged their journey and contribution to New Zealand and Colonel Brett Wellington, NZ Defence Force, emphasised their huge contribution in Afghanistan.

Spokesman for the Interpreters, Raza Kahdim, thanked those who embraced them into their new country and gave special mention to the New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Services.

Photo courtesy of Hamilton City Council.