Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Asylum call for Afghan interpreters

Lord Ashdown said it is shameful that Britain is the only Nato country yet to provide Afghan interpreters with asylum

Britain has a "moral obligation" to help Afghan interpreters who are in danger of being abandoned, a number of key figures say.

In an open letter, the high-profile names, including former Chief of the General Staff Sir Mike Jackson and Lord Ashdown, said it is shameful that Britain is the only Nato country yet to provide Afghan interpreters with asylum.

Published in the Times newspaper, it said the current system of dealing with asylum claims by Afghans on a case-by-case basis is "slow, not transparent and offers no guarantee of success".

The letter is also signed by Michael Clarke, director of defence think-tank the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI); former Army officer Patrick Hennessy, author of The Junior Officer's Reading Club; and veteran Jake Wood, who wrote Among You: The Extraordinary True Story Of A Soldier Broken By War.

It said: "Afghan interpreters who've stood shoulder to shoulder with our Armed Forces in Afghanistan are now in danger of being abandoned by Britain.

"The British military's job in Afghanistan would have been impossible without local interpreters, who have risked their lives and made extraordinary sacrifices just like British soldiers."

They said around 20 were killed in action, five were killed while off duty, and dozens of others had been injured. And with the withdrawal of UK troops, many are left in fear of Taliban reprisals, they said.

The letter follows a swelling campaign over rights for Afghan interpreters and their families to settle in Britain.

A petition launched by one interpreter has already gathered more than 60,000 signatures, and the cause has been taken up by campaign group Avaaz.

The man, 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.

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