23 Apr 2012

Govt willing to consider asylum request from Afghan interpreters

7:02 pm on 23 April 2012

Prime Minister John Key says the Government is willing to consider any request for asylum by Afghans who worked as interpreters for New Zealand troops.

The interpreters fear they could be targeted once NATO forces leave Afghanistan.

New Zealand soldiers have been serving in Afghanistan since 2003, with the Provincial Reconstruction Team and on operations with the elite SAS unit.

New Zealand is due to withdraw from the country next year and has indicated that, circumstance allowing, that could happen sooner.

Mr Key says New Zealand would not want to leave any locals in a compromised position because of their association with its soldiers.

"Obviously, we'll look very closely at that situation, as I think all countries would need to. We wouldn't want to leave people who have been integral in the process high and dry or at risk of their lives.

"But equally, we need to have discussions with both our partners and the individuals to assess the merits of their case."

Mr Key says Defence Minister Jonathan Coleman intends to look at the matter further.