Afghanistan

Afghan Interpreters: Government Pledges 'Fair System' For UK Residency

A redundancy scheme has enabled just two interpreters who worked with UK personnel to resettle in the two years since terms were relaxed.

The Defence Secretary and Home Secretary have promised to establish a "fair system" for Afghan interpreters who worked with British forces and want to settle to the UK.

However, Ben Wallace and Priti Patel are yet to produce any new proposals.

In 13 years of British combat operations in Afghanistan, around 3,500 Afghan interpreters worked alongside personnel on the ground, performing a vital communication role.

Those translating for the forces in the final two years of the UK's mission in the country, between 2012 and 2014, were allowed to make the switch under a redundancy scheme.

The Government says 1,150 people, made up of 440 interpreters and there families, have since been able to settle in the UK under the initiative.

For those who did not qualify, another scheme to establish their personal risk was later deemed a "dismal failure" by the Commons Defence Committee.

Ed Aitken, a former British Army captain and Chairman of The Sulha Network, which campaigns for the rights of ex-Afghan interpreters who worked with military personnel, said the Government must implement recommendations made in previous defence reviews.

"Here are men who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with our serviceman and women who are physically, day-to-day, in danger," he said.

"Their lives are in danger and yet somehow we are going round and round in circles and not able to do the right thing.

Ben Wallace in Downing Street
The MOD says Defence Secretary Ben Wallace is recognises the "crucial sacrifice" made by interpreters (Picture: PA)

"The Taliban are very much on the look out for these men, they are very much enemies of the state, as far as the Taliban are concerned," Mr Aitken added.

"Afghanistan is not a safe society, it is not somewhere where the rule of law will protect you."

Two years ago, the redundancy settlement was relaxed, alongside an Ministry of Defence (MOD) announcement that it would allow 50 more interpreters and their families to come to the UK.

However, only two have since been able to make the transition in the period since.

As Mr Wallace and Ms Patel hold talks to address the scheme, an MOD Spokesperson told Forces News: "The Home Secretary and Defence Secretary are committed to dealing with these legacy issues, and putting a fair system in place for those who have served this country.

"When it comes to Afghan interpreters, the ministers absolutely recognise the crucial sacrifice they provided and that it's right we resolve their settlement."

Mr Aitken said he believes this stance is purposefully "non-committal" and "designed to appease".

Cover image: Sunset behind Gardez mountains in Afghanistan (Picture: NATO).