The Government had successfully assisted more than 1,500 people to travel from Afghanistan to Aotearoa New Zealand since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, as the taskforce set up to lead the mission comes to an end.
“Operation Whakahokinga Mai has achieved an extraordinary amount in the past 6 months, and marks one of the largest humanitarian efforts undertaken by any New Zealand government in recent decades. It is heartening to see so many people travel safely from Afghanistan,” Foreign Minister, Nanaia Mahuta said.
After evacuation efforts were halted on 26 August, Operation Whakahokinga Mai was established to help those originally eligible for evacuation, but still in Afghanistan, to travel to New Zealand.
Operation Whakahokinga Mai, led by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, at times numbered more than 100 public servants across several agencies and based in several countries. As part of Whakahokinga Mai, the Afghanistan Departures Taskforce plays a key role in facilitating travel documentation, accommodation and flights for those eligible for assistance. MIQ access and resettlement services are organised by MBIE, and were activated upon arrival to Aotearoa New Zealand.
“This would not have been possible without the hard work of our people onshore and offshore, cooperation with the advocates involved and the great support from our partner countries who played an important role in helping us get our people safely from Afghanistan to New Zealand,” Ms Mahuta said.
“It has nearly been six months since Operation Whakahokinga Mai was established and I am pleased we have managed to bring nearly 90 percent of those we set out to assist, to Aotearoa. This leaves less than 200 to be assisted from Afghanistan before the operation concludes. We encourage those final 200 to assess their situation and get in contact as soon as possible, before this opportunity closes.”
The dedicated Afghanistan Departures Taskforce will close on 29 April. The Minister said support will continue to be provided by MFAT to the remaining New Zealand citizens, Permanent Residents and eligible visa-holders until 30 July 2022. From 30 July onward, assistance may be provided on a case by case basis to those with exceptional circumstances preventing them to travel before that date.
Alongside efforts to assist citizens, permanent residents and Afghan visa holders, New Zealand has supported the Afghanistan people through $12 million in humanitarian aid.
“It’s important that we don’t lose sight of the scale and severity of the humanitarian need as new and emerging crises present themselves across the globe. New Zealand will continue to look at ways to support Afghanistan in the wake of its humanitarian crisis,” the Minister said.