Campaign backs Afghan interpreters
Published 21/03/2013 | 07:46
Afghan interpreters who helped British forces are being left behind to be "hunted down by the Taliban" because of a refusal by the UK government to provide them with a settlement package to ensure their safety, campaigners have said.
Lawyers are currently acting for three former interpreters, one of whom remains in Afghanistan and is facing regular death threats from the Taliban. The man who is known only as Abdul to protect his identity, is in hiding in Afghanistan after he and his family were threatened by the Taliban because of the work he did for the British forces.
He has launched a petition - which has already gathered more than 50,000 signatures - and the cause has been taken up by campaign group Avaaz.
Avaaz campaign director Alex Wilks said: "Afghan interpreters are war heroes who've risked everything to save British lives and rebuild their country. Britain is the only Nato country so far refusing to grant them safety.
"William Hague must offer them asylum, as the UK did before for Iraqi interpreters who helped us there. We can't leave them behind to be hunted down by the Taliban."
Leigh Day Solicitors are acting for Abdul, as well as two other interpreters, and are planning to launch legal proceedings to help him get to safety. They have already written to the Foreign Office and the Ministry of Defence asking for the "targeted assisted scheme" which the UK government provided to Iraqi interpreters employed by the British forces in Iraq to be extended to those who worked for the British forces in Afghanistan.
The scheme allows qualifying staff the right either to resettle in Britain or a one-off financial payment.
Speaking from Afghanistan, Abdul - who worked as an intepreter with British forces from 2006-2012 - said threats to him and his family started in 2009, and are still ongoing.
"They say 'you people are infidels, you are working for the infidels'," he said. "We reported it to the Afghan police but they couldn't do anything. They said, 'we can't give you bodyguards'. If we could afford bodyguards we could employ them but we cannot afford it.
"We are keeping a low profile. The situation is getting worse and worse right now. We have helped the British government in Afghanistan. When they were in need we were proud to help them. Right now we need their help."