Newshub Nation: Progress for Afghanistan evacuees but painstaking wait to reunite with families remains due to massive backlog

It's two years since Kabul fell and the Taliban took full control of Afghanistan. 

It's been almost two years since Sharifa Ahmadi last saw her family. 

She loves New Zealand's "fresh weather and good people, everything is here.

"Just family is not here. They are in trouble."

Last month, Ahmadi's brother was stabbed on the street in Bamiyan Province and left for dead. 

Ahmadi is one of 1700 people who fled Afghanistan to New Zealand. 

Almost 1500 of those people came as evacuees on an emergency visa created to help those who'd worked with the New Zealand government in Afghanistan. 

Ahmadi said that when she heard she had recieved a visa to New Zealand "I became so happy I just jumped.

"I moved around the house, I was shouting, but not so loud because the Taliban was everywhere."

She told her husband "finally we've got a way to get out."

However, as an evacuee - rather than a refugee - she's had no pathway to bring her family to New Zealand, until now. 

Immigration Minister Andrew Little told Newshub Nation's Laura Walters "It was pretty apparent that because they weren’t refugees in the formal sense, they weren’t getting the rights and benefits that other refugees get and we agreed with them, we thought that wasn’t quite right".

The Government has opened the Refugee Family Support Category, an important step towards helping members of this community settle into their new home.

For Mohammad Zubair Karimi, reconnecting with his father and siblings can’t come soon enough.

"Family reunification is important for me. I’m not mentally settled here," he said. 

Depite the good news, Zubair Karimi and Ahmadi will have to hold out a little longer. 

Immigration Minister Andrew Little says it could take two to three years for these visas to be processed and for family members to arrive in New Zealand. 

The backlog is linked to the increased refugee quota. More refugees; more applications to bring non-dependent family members to NZ.

In acknowledgment, the Govt has increased the number of Refugee Family Support Category visas from 300 a year to 600. But the backlog is significant. 

It was exacerbated by Covid-19 and the pause in the wider refugee resettlement programme.

This means, it could take two to three years before these visa applications are processed and their families are able to come to NZ.

Little admits the wait "will be challenging for many. 

"But we need to be realistic and open with them that this is the situation that we’ve got."

These evacuees are happy there's now a pathway for their families but they'll just have to hope their loved ones remain safe back home until they can be reunited.

Watch the full video for more. 

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Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air.