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New Zealand families with loved ones in Kabul are pleading for help, as the Taliban takes control of Afghanistan.
Aucklander Amin Bakhsh is desperate to get his wife and toddler back from Kabul.
Bakhsh, a New Zealand citizen since 2012, returned from Kabul three months ago to organise his wife’s entry to New Zealand – sensing the situation there was worsening.
He has even offered to go himself and help any local operation extract Kiwi citizens.
Bakhsh’s family are trapped in Kabul, locked at home with his wife’s parents where they’re unable to go outside.
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“The visa process was delayed, and now it’s kind of too late. Basically there is nothing we can do,” Bakhsh said.
“There are no flights in and out … I don’t know what is going to happen to them.”
He said Immigration New Zealand has not confirmed what will become of his wife’s visa application.
Immigration NZ are yet to respond to questions from Stuff.
On Monday, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the Defence Force would be deployed to help evacuate New Zealanders and Afghan allies from Kabul. Around 40 personnel will be deployed for approximately one month.
Bakhsh is a certified interpreter. This week he emailed the Prime Minister’s office offering to join any deployment to help on the ground. He hasn’t heard back.
He said the Defence Force’s intervention could be his family’s only hope.
“Otherwise, I’m hopeless, desperate, and distressed.”
They are largely New Zealand citizens, some former refugees too, who returned to Afghanistan to help their wives get citizenship or residency in the face of the slow immigration process.
“The Government has to protect its citizens, they cannot leave them behind,” he said.
“So far there is no clear indication of what they are going to do, or what is their position…Immigration has been absolutely, absolutely slow.”
Hazaranejad said people are scared, and are listening to rumours that they might be kidnapped, taken as brides or prosecuted by the Taliban, which has publicly said it will not prosecute locals who worked with foreigners.
“It’s what they are saying for now, what will happen tomorrow, a week later, a month later is unknown,” he said.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says work to get New Zealanders out of Afghanistan has ramped up, as commercial options become unavailable.
Hekmat, who didn’t want his full name used in fear it could harm his family in Afghanistan, helped organise a protest in Auckland’s Aotea Square last weekend.
The protest centred on what was happening in Afghanistan and the uncertainty people face.
Hekmat said Afghanistan was moving into “unknown territory” but he believed all that had been gained in the past 20 years – such as democracy, freedom of speech, and education for women and children – “will disappear within months”.
Afghan Association of New Zealand chairman Maqib Miakhil said seeing the panic and chaos in Kabul was painful, worrying and sad.
Thousands of people were stranded at the airport or sitting at home and nobody knew what the future held.
“Nobody knows what will happen in the next few days,” Miakhil said. “Nobody anticipated that this would happen within hours and days, it’s very worrying.”
Miakhil said he had been in contact with family members in Afghanistan and his brother who owned a small business in Kabul that was his “livelihood”.
He was stuck at home, unable to go out, and concerned looting may start happening, he said.
Going to work on Monday had been difficult for Miakhil, but what was taking place in Afghanistan was heavy on his mind.
Not much could be done at the moment – but many people were angry at seeing a total failure of the government, he said.
Former Minister of Ethnic Affairs Chris Carter told Stuff his phone is flooded with messages from the Afghan community in New Zealand, which he worked with closely during his time as an MP between 2002 and 2008.
He is urging New Zealand Immigration to expedite outstanding visa applications for spouses and children stuck across the country.
“Wi-fi is still working in Kabul. If they can get their visa approved and they can get their letter via email, there is an opportunity,” said Carter, who lived in Kabul for four years.
“The numbers we are talking about are not large. Canada’s going to take 20,000, New Zealand will take perhaps a hundred at the very most.
“If we can get them to Doha it will be easy to get them to New Zealand, but it’s about getting them about of Kabul.”