More than 40 military leaders today urge Boris Johnson to expedite the transfer of interpreters from Afghanistan.
In a stark warning to the prime minister, they say Britain faces “dishonour” if those who served with British troops are left to be killed by the Taliban.
In the open letter, they claim the public has been told the government is doing everything it can, when in fact UK policies are too complicated and mean.
More than 500 cases have been rejected under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Program in the past three months, including at least 130 interpreters.
In stark warning to PM, more than 40 military leaders say Britain faces ‘dishonor’ if those who served with British troops are left to be killed by the Taliban (file photo of British soldiers in Afghanistan)
The others did, among other things, drive and cook on British bases in Helmand province.
They all face reprisals from the Taliban, who now reportedly control up to 80 percent of the country. Seven former coalition interpreters are said to have died this year.
To be eligible for relocation, interpreters must meet a list of conditions and must prove that they were in an exposed role that now puts them in ‘imminent danger’.
Meeting all the criteria may be impossible due to missing paperwork. The British embassy in Kabul, which manages the ARAP, is understaffed, leading to delays and administrative errors in handling the sheer volume of cases.
The service was terminated at more than 1,000 interpreters – 35 percent of the total – a fact that usually precludes the chance of a successful application.
The officers, including former army chief Lord Dannatt and former special forces chief Brigadier General Ed Butler, argue that the criteria should be less onerous.
‘Punished for following orders’
Arif had rejected his asylum application because he had been fired from his job as an interpreter for the British army.
Since then, he has been repeatedly threatened and attacked in Afghanistan and now fears being left to the Taliban.
The 36-year-old father insisted his dismissal was an injustice that followed a change of command.
Arif (right) had rejected his application for shelter because he had been fired from his job as a British Army interpreter
“I think they wanted to reduce the number of interpreters, so I was sacrificed,” he said.
“Now my life and that of my family is in danger.”
He added: “I followed orders and was punished for it. That can now be corrected so we can live a safe life, but it seems the people in the UK don’t want that. Please show compassion and help.”
Their letter reads: ‘Time is of the utmost importance to save the lives of those who served alongside our military in Afghanistan and who saved countless British lives.
‘It is clear that ARAP has insufficient capacity to handle the required scale and speed.
“If one of our former interpreters is murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the shame would be laid right at the feet of our nation. ARAP does not offer our former Afghan interpreters and colleagues the sanctuary that the British public has come to believe is afforded.
“Too many of our former interpreters have been unnecessarily and unreasonably rejected for relocation to security in the UK and we are urging that the policy be reviewed immediately to ensure more people are accommodated.
“The current policy discriminates against the 35 percent of staff who have been made redundant for various reasons without any proper procedure or opportunity to appeal their dismissal. We urge the government to amend the policy so that all former interpreters have the opportunity to be resettled to the UK unless they are proven to have committed an offense threatening national security.”
Britain has embarked on the largest rescue operation in nearly 50 years with approximately 3,500 Afghans, including 800 interpreters and their families, expected to be relocated to these shores.
‘Freedom Flights’ have arrived in the UK with merry families celebrating their freedom and security from attack.
The Taliban have launched a major offensive across Afghanistan following the US withdrawal, ahead of a full withdrawal by August 31
At the mercy of the Taliban
Wazir, who has spent four years working on the front lines and in medical units, is desperate to come to Britain with his wife and four children.
The 30-year-old says his home has been attacked three times and has received numerous threats from the Taliban. His brother was killed because the killers couldn’t find Wazir, his family said.
“We have tried everything to live safely and quietly in Afghanistan, but it has been impossible,” Wazir said. “This is only because of my work for the British troops for which I risked my life and now my family is paying the fine. It’s hard to bear.’
Despite glowing references from British officers, his offer to move was rejected as he was fired for being in a room where an interpreter was smoking drugs.
Wazir (right), a former interpreter on the front lines with British troops, was under ARAP. refused to move to the UK
This paper’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign has repeatedly highlighted the threat to interpreters and the almost insurmountable obstacles placed on those seeking refuge. The current version of ARAP, introduced in April, is considered an improvement over previous schemes, but still seems too slow and not generous.
The signatories to today’s letter have a unique insight into the role of interpreters and other personnel while representing every aspect of the veteran community involved in the campaign in Afghanistan.
Among them are several former chiefs of the defense staff, chiefs of the army, navy and air force, four former commanders of Task Force Helmand, a former deputy supreme commander of Allied Europe, a former intelligence chief and former minister Johnny Mercer.
The Sulha Alliance, which is campaigning for the former interpreters and coordinating the letter to the Prime Minister, has details of 450 cases that were denied under ARAP because they were terminated, did not work in an ‘exposed’ role or did not direct. employed by the British government.
The Daily Mail is aware of additional cases.
Other factors that count against applicants include that they were subcontracted rather than employed directly by the UK. In cases where their service was terminated, they must have committed a minor offense rather than a serious crime.