Posted on Jun 11, 2018
Afghan Interpreters Who Served With Brits To Be Given UK Visas
Afghan interpreters who served alongside British troops are to be given the right to settle in the UK, the Defence Secretary has announced.
Changes to the current scheme mean approximately 200 new visas are set to be issued in recognition of the interpreters’ “unflinching courage” at carrying out duties “fraught with great difficulty and danger”, Gavin Williamson said.
This includes family members, who will also be allowed to relocate to Britain under the new law.
The government has been attacked in the past for its treatment of former staff, such as interpreters, and has been accused of “abandoning” them following the conflict, leaving them open to intimidation.
Last month, MPs blasted the ‘Intimidation Scheme’, which was set up to help civilians at risk of reprisals from the Taliban after working for coalition forces during the UK’s fighting presence in Afghanistan.
A report by the Defence Committee said the scheme seemed to go to “considerable lengths” to stop the relocation of interpreters and other locally employed civilians (LECs), who were threatened and intimidated, to the UK.
MPs described the scheme as an “utter failure” and said that relocation to the UK had been treated as “a matter of last resort”.
The Redundancy Scheme – open to Afghan civilians who had been working in frontline roles for at least 12 months when the UK began to draw down forces in December 2012 – has re-homed 1,150 Afghans in the UK.
Announcing the changes to the law, Mr Williamson wrote in the Daily Mail:
“Frontline patrol interpreters were the unsung heroes of the military campaign in Afghanistan.
“I cannot be clearer in expressing our nation’s eternal appreciation to these brave individuals who regularly risked life and limb to help defeat our enemies and protect us from terrorists. But we owe them more than just warm words.”
Currently, only interpreters who were still serving in December 2012 are eligible for asylum.
However, that criteria has now been extended by six years – meaning all interpreters who were made redundant after serving at least a year on the front-line from May 2016 will be eligible to settle in the UK.
In December, defence minister Mark Lancaster said Britain’s policies to help Afghan interpreters remained “fit for purpose and properly meet our responsibilities”.
But Mr Williamson said they “failed to take account of the immense sacrifice and service of many who had left before (2012)”.
Mr Lancaster also said the Ministry of Defence schemes have relocated more than 385 former staff and their families to the UK.