Foreign Minister on Afghanistan: “We never stopped helping”

Source: Q and A

The Foreign Minister, on her first overseas diplomatic mission since taking the post over a year ago, will be meeting with Qatari officials to thank them for their help in evacuating New Zealand citizens, residents and visa holders from Afghanistan.

Nanaia Mahuta says its unlikely that she’ll be meeting with any affected families still awaiting return to Aotearoa, deeming it “unwise” to get involved in any individual situation.

“The conversations I will be having will be at a more strategic level to understand the nature of the plan that we are giving effect to, but also the arrangements that we have specifically with Qatar and in particular they have been helpful in being able to fly people back to New Zealand.”

Speaking from Dubai in the UAE, she told political reporter Maiki Sherman that 769 visa holders have managed to get out of Afghanistan, and of those, 635 have made their way to New Zealand.

She is not open to widening or revisiting the criteria for those eligible to come to Aotearoa.

Mahuta stands by the decision to have such a short evacuation window in August.

“As we moved through that emergency evacuation it became glaringly apparent that there were challenges on the ground, that there were imminent threats and we couldn’t compromise the security of those that we had sent in to bring people back.”

“People shouldn’t be under any shadow of a doubt that we never stopped helping, even when the emergency evacuation stopped, our people were still continuing to process applications that were eligible during that period of time, help facilitate people to come back and actually those who had registered on the Safe Travel website we were still providing regular updates and supports to people who were very stressed at the time, and we are continuing to help.”