NZ launches second phase in Afghanistan response

New Zealand is sending a Special Representative to the Middle East to help people who have been granted visas get out of Afghanistan. 

The Government has been under pressure after many were left behind after the August withdrawal. 

"We are focused on the second phase of our response in Afghanistan," Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said. 

"This means working through the financial, legal, health and security challenges that Afghan nationals who try to travel will face, as well as the practical realities of travelling to New Zealand in a global pandemic."

Visas have been granted for more than 1250 people, with Mahuta saying they are focusing on how to support people to enter New Zealand. 

Those visas included many at risk from the Taliban, such as judges, human rights workers and prominent women. 

New Zealand ceased accepting applications from Afghan nationals for resettlement in late August, ending the evacuation mission after the Kabul terrorist attack. 

Prior to the withdrawal, 393 New Zealand visa holders were evacuated from Afghanistan and another 35 have arrived since. 

"This has been one of the largest and most complex humanitarian responses we have ever undertaken, and the extremely challenging environment in which we are trying to work presents a range of risks," Mahuta said. 

The Special Representative would "support our efforts on the ground and work closely with our partners to secure onward travel out of the region and on to New Zealand", Mahuta said. 

"This operation is highly dependent on multilateral cooperation with likeminded partners and countries neighbouring Afghanistan who have borne the brunt of those fleeing the Taliban," Mahuta said. 

"A Special Representative will help lead discussions, as well as work with other staff to help confirm and verify those who have managed to cross the border."

"Officials are also assessing what further humanitarian support New Zealand can provide, as well as the immigration pathways available."

In September, documents seen by Q+A suggested more than 700 people who are eligible to come to Aotearoa were still in Afghanistan or neighbouring countries, and many others continue to apply to seek refuge here.