Afghani interpreter families safe at last

After risking their lives to assist Kiwi troops, Afghan interpreters and their families were given a chance of a safer life in NZ. Shabnam Dastgheib catches up one year on.

A happy future for his children away from the dangers of war was all Afghani interpreter Mohammad Askar Habibi could hope for when he arrived in New Zealand.

After serving for years alongside the Provincial Reconstruction Team in Bamiyan, Habibi knew his family could not live a secure life in his homeland. One year has passed since he, his wife and their three sons arrived in Palmerston North, and their new life could not be more different. It is the peaceful nature of life in New Zealand for which he is most thankful.

“We came here in order to be safe, for that purpose we are really feeling happy here. We are at last safe. It is really important for us, as humans we always want to be alive and have a good life. The situation is getting worse back in Afghanistan.”

Interpreters who worked with New Zealand forces after December 2010 were offered a relocation package.

Those who chose to come to New Zealand were relocated to Palmerston North and Hamilton, where they were supported by the Red Cross and numerous volunteers.

Habibi said the support from the Government and those around him had been incredible.

“The people are very kind to us, my children go to school and the schools are very happy to have them. I want to send my children to school and university and I want them to be good citizens for New Zealand.

“Life is really smooth. When my children will grow here, they will be Kiwis, but I intend to go and visit my relatives.”

He said as soon as he had his truck driver’s licence he would be working where he could. He has experience as a teacher, taxi driver and truck driver.

Another of the interpreters to settle in Palmerston North is Asadullah Rezaie who came over with his wife and son. They now have a two-month-old daughter who he said was lucky to be a Kiwi.

“I have a job working with a security company so my family are doing very good and they are happy.”

He said he could finally feel optimistic about the future for his children. “My son is in kindy. When we came here he couldn’t say a word in English but now he can talk with people and he can solve his own problems.

“He will go to school next year so I can see a very, very good future for him because of a good education system here. He is very, very safe in New Zealand.”

Rezaie said there had been cultural differences to get used to but he hadn’t encountered major problems.

“If you compare Afghanistan to New Zealand, it is way different. My family are an educated family. In my family, women are allowed to do anything but other women are not allowed to go to the bazaar or school. New Zealand is a country where both should work and both be responsible.”

He hoped to join the New Zealand police force.

New Zealand Red Cross Waikato Refugee Services manager Rachel O’Connor said the interpreters and their families had also settled into the Waikato community incredibly well, with most in fulltime work.

Source: Stuff news

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