Afghan interpreter families officially welcomed

Children’s laughter filled the hall at Government House in Auckland as 30 Afghan interpreters and their families were officially welcomed into New Zealand.

Yesterday the interpreters from Bamyan Province were formally welcomed to New Zealand with an afternoon tea with Governor General, Lieutenant General Sir Jerry Mateparae and Lady Janine.

The interpreters marked the occasion by presenting Sir Jerry with an Afghani flag emblazoned with the names of the 10 dead New Zealand soldiers who died there.

Sir Jerry took time to personally thank the interpreters after the official ceremony, and acknowledged it was good to see their children were comfortable and settling in.

“I hope that wherever you settle whether that’s in Hamilton or in Palmerston North that you settle well and that your families will enjoy this life that you are now living.”

Their children showed off their newly learned English alphabets. They are fast picking up words like “umbrella” and “elephant”, and may soon lose their native language altogether, interpreter Hussain Sayed said.

“I think the children are learning too much.”

Last year the government offered interpreters who worked with New Zealand forces after December 2010 a relocation package. The interpreters could either choose to move to New Zealand or take a three year salary to relocate within Afghanistan.

Several thousand members of the NZ Defence Force have served as part of the 10 year mission to the Bamyan Provincial Reconstruction Team, which Sir Jerry and Lady Janine visited the province in April.

“The interpreters, the “terps” became close personal teammates and endured the same hardships as our people,” Sir Jerry said.

The formal welcome marked the completion of the transition to New Zealand programme at the Mangere Refugee Centre in Auckland. The interpreters will now relocate to Palmerston North and Hamilton where they will be supported by the Red Cross.

Interpreter Asdullah Rezaie yesterday picked up his driver’s licence and was looking forward to buying a car, a necessity for New Zealand but not Afghanistan, he said.

“If you’re in a small province in Afghanistan you don’t need a car because everything is so close. And it’s not economical, fuel and vehicles are very expensive.”

Mr Rezaie is looking forward to studying to become an administration officer in Palmerston North where he will live with his wife and three-year-old son Mahdy, who has learned to count in English.

“The majority of us will continue our education, we completed our secondary education in Afghanistan but because here was no money we weren’t able to continue.”

While nervous about cultural differences, Mr Rezaie felt confident his family will adjust. He said he found it strange that women shake hands with men here, and speak with strangers.

Shopping in supermarkets was also different from the bazaars back home.

“But we’ve got a lot of support from the community.

“I expected New Zealand to be a very nice country and found it to be very nice, very kind.”

Source: Stuff News

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