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First New Zealanders returned from Afghanistan

First New Zealanders returned from Afghanistan

Posted August 23, 2021

Media Release: Hon Peeni Henare Minister of Defence

The first group of New Zealand citizens, their families and other visa holders evacuated from Afghanistan will arrive in New Zealand this afternoon, Defence Minister Peeni Henare announced today.

“By working alongside our partners, particularly Australia and the United Arab Emirates to whom we are very grateful, we’re able to bring these New Zealanders safely home,” Peeni Henare said.

“Their long journey to safety is nearly over, and I can only imagine the relief and joy they feel at being reunited with loved ones here in Aotearoa, once they have completed Managed Isolation and Quarantine.”

The effort to evacuate New Zealanders and Afghan nationals who hold visas to enter the country has involved multiple government agencies and hundreds of personnel both in New Zealand and in the Middle East.

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 has been deployed into the region to help in the evacuation efforts alongside our partners.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been providing consular support to more than 200 New Zealanders in Afghanistan to help them onto flights in dangerous and perilous conditions.

“Our ability to assist individuals on the ground and at the airport in Kabul is limited but has been helped by the presence of our New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) personnel working alongside our partners. Access into Kabul airport is extremely difficult and travel into Kabul from the provinces is almost impossible,” Peeni Henare said.

“The New Zealand Government would also like to thank the US for helping to secure an entry for New Zealanders at Kabul airport, and Air New Zealand for its support in assisting to bring New Zealanders home from Australia,” Peeni Henare said.

MFAT has managed enquiries from Afghan nationals wanting assistance to leave the country. The Ministry has been working urgently with Immigration New Zealand to secure visas for those whom the New Zealand Government has determined as working alongside NZDF, New Zealand Police and aid missions, or materially assisted in the Operation Burnham inquiry.