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Former Afghan interpreters lose challenge to ruling on assistance scheme

Published 09/05/2016

The High Court is to rule on a challenge by two Afghan interpreters over a Government assistance scheme
The High Court is to rule on a challenge by two Afghan interpreters over a Government assistance scheme

Two former interpreters who risked their lives working for British forces in Afghanistan have lost their challenge to a High Court ruling that the Government assistance scheme open to them is lawful.

They claimed that it is unfair and unlawful because, with certain exceptions, assistance is not available to staff who left British employment before December 2012.

In March, their lawyers told the Court of Appeal that AL - who remains in hiding in Kabul - and Mohammed Rafi Hottak, who has now been granted asylum but still has family in Afghanistan, both gave ''principled and brave'' service.

They said they were being discriminated against and treated differently from Iraqi interpreters, who were all given assistance when their lives became endangered through assisting the British in the Iraq war.

But on Monday, Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice David Richards and Sir Colin Rimer rejected their case and refused permission to appeal to the Supreme Court.

The interpreters wanted the Afghan scheme to cover ''locally engaged staff'' employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Afghanistan before the 2012 cut-off date.

The High Court ruled that the "territorial reach" of the Equality Act 2010 was not such "as to include the claimants' circumstances" and there was no direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of nationality.

There had been a Government failure to have regard to relevant equality duty matters under the 2010 Act when formulating the Afghan assistance scheme, but it was a procedural issue and did not entitle the Afghans to any relief, they declared.

The appeal judges said that the High Court's decision to do no more than grant declaratory relief was an exercise of its discretion that could not be faulted.

Rosa Curling from law firm Leigh Day said later: "Our clients are very disappointed. We hope that the Supreme Court will allow us to take this legal fight forwards on behalf of these brave men.

"The recent reported suicide of the former interpreter Nangyalai Dawoodzai highlights again how the current policies are failing. Afghan interpreters must be treated equally to those who served in Iraq for the brave service they gave to this country and its Armed Forces."

One of the men taking the legal action said: " We are disappointed by today's judgment, and we hope to be granted permission to appeal.

"The campaign for the men who risked their lives for British soldiers in Afghanistan continues. We must be allowed to live in safety, free of threats from the Taliban and now the Islamic State."

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