Afghanistan evacuation: First New Zealanders rescued from Kabul arriving home today

The first group of New Zealand citizens, their families and “other visa holders” evacuated from Afghanistan will arrive in New Zealand this afternoon.

The first Kiwis – understood to have been a family – who had been trapped in Afghanistan since the Taliban dramatically took power last weekend were flown out of Kabul’s chaotic airport on Friday.

Since then, others have managed to safely get out of Kabul airport – which is controlled inside by US troops and other allies, while outside is in the hands of the Taliban – on flights with partner nations.

It’s not clear whether any former interpreters or other Afghan civilians who worked with the NZDF’s war effort in Afghanistan are on the flights.

The first were due to touch down back 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,” 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 in New Zealand and the Middle East.

A New Zealand Defence Force C-130 has been deployed to the region to help in the evacuation efforts alongside partner nations. It is understood to have arrived at an undisclosed base in the Middle East and is expected to fly into Kabul some time this week.

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.

Last Thursday, Kiwis registered on Safe Travel as being in Afghanistan were told to travel to Kabul airport, if they could do so safely, to await an outbound military flight.

They were told to brace themselves for “large and potentially volatile crowds” outside Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International Airport.

“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,” Henare said today.

“Access into Kabul airport is extremely difficult and travel into Kabul from the provinces is almost impossible.

“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.”

MFAT has managed inquiries from Afghan nationals wanting assistance to leave the country.

They have been working urgently with Immigration New Zealand to secure visas for those who the New Zealand Government has determined as working alongside NZDF, New Zealand Police and aid missions, or materially assisted in the Operation Burnham inquiry.

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