That the Government still does not know how many New Zealanders and Afghan civilians who worked alongside our Defence Force remain stranded in strife-torn Afghanistan is appalling, says Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins.
“I asked Minister of Defence Peeni Henare multiple times how many vulnerable New Zealand citizens and allies were left behind following the cowardly terror attack on Kabul’s international airport.
“Despite his dithering, the Minister’s answer was that he simply didn’t know. This is a shocking admission of this Government’s failure to act to evacuate these people when it should have – months ago – and it’s ineptitude in understanding and dealing with a situation that will almost certainly become a global humanitarian crisis.
“Other countries had concrete plans in place. They saw what was happening. Our Government’s myopic approach means that, yet again, it’s miles behind the eight-ball when it really counts and when lives are on the line.
“It’s bad enough that the Immigration Minister still can’t say when Afghanis who assisted our defence personnel will get visas to get to safety in New Zealand.
“But to see the Defence Minister so out of his depth, so uninformed, is hugely disturbing.
“Our Government should immediately and unequivocally reiterate its commitment to the people of Afghanistan, especially those brave Afghan civilians who worked alongside New Zealand during our deployment. We must offer – and provide – safe passage and refuge in our country.
“These people were key to the safety and security of our brave Defence Force personnel. We must not leave them to now fend for themselves.
“The Minister’s statement today clarified nothing. We are left with more questions than answers, when the principle of ‘no one left behind’ should be our only focus.
“It is especially troubling, too, that our Government is yet to officially condemn the Taliban terror regime. While the rights of women and girls to do the very things we consider basic human rights – such as getting an education – are being outlawed, our Prime Minister has ‘begged’ for and “urged” respect for the rights of these vulnerable Afghanis from a brutal, archaic regime that treats women and girls as chattels.
“It’s a disgraceful situation the Government must put right, before even more innocent people lose their lives.”
Do you like this page?