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Interpreters deserve 'loyalty' from NZ - Goff

Thursday 4 Jul 2013 11:33 a.m.

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By 3 News online staff

An interpreter who suffered physical and mental wounds while helping Kiwi soldiers in Afghanistan should be allowed to resettle in New Zealand, Labour's defence spokesman has said.

Speaking on Firstline this morning, Phil Goff said interpreters were at risk of revenge attacks from the Taliban if they remained in Afghanistan.

"Because they've worked for New Zealand, they're seen by the Taliban as collaborators, [and] their lives and the lives of their families are at risk," Mr Goff said.

"You'd think there would be some reciprocal loyalty, [and] that New Zealand would say 'ok, you've put your life on the line for us as a country, and now we'll give you safe refuge in New Zealand'."

The interpreter, known as AJ, was in a patrol vehicle that was attacked with explosives in Bamyan province in 2010, killing New Zealand Lieutenant Tim O'Donnell.

AJ was hospitalised for a week and reportedly experienced post-traumatic stress disorder following the blast.

His former commander says the interpreter was involved in several other incidents which put him in danger and his sacrifice should be rewarded.

Despite this, he has not yet been allowed to resettle in New Zealand.

Mr Goff said New Zealand should be welcoming Afghan interpreters with open arms.

"The great thing about these guys is they would settle so well in New Zealand. They speak English fluently, they are interpreters, they are motivated, [and] the 30 that have come to New Zealand have settled here well.

"Let's give them the opportunity to have a safe life, let's thank them for the work that they've done on our behalf."

AJ is currently living as a refugee in Germany, but told TV3's 3rd Degree programme he is miserable there and is unable to seek adequate medical attention for his injuries.

Mr Goff said it was unacceptable for someone who had loyally served New Zealand to be abandoned in such a way.

"Let's show that when we're out on deployment and local people are helping us, we won't leave them behind, we won't abandon them."

AJ has not heard anything from the New Zealand government for about six months.

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