United Kingdom

Generals' fury as UK snubs 130 heroic Afghan translators with top brass demanding sanctuary for men

More than 40 military chiefs today urge Boris Johnson to speed up the relocation of interpreters from Afghanistan.

In a grim warning to the Prime Minister, they say Britain faces 'dishonour' if those who served with UK troops are left to be murdered by the Taliban.

In the open letter they claim the public has been told the Government is doing everything it can when in fact British policy is over-complicated and mean-spirited.

More than 500 cases have been rejected under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Programme in the past three months, at least 130 of them involving interpreters.

In a grim warning to the Prime Minister, more than 40 military chiefs say Britain faces 'dishonour' if those who served with UK troops are left to be murdered by the Taliban (file photo of British soldiers in Afghanistan)

The others did jobs including driving and cooking at British bases in Helmand province.

They all face reprisals from the Taliban, who are now said to be in control of up to 80 per cent of the country. Seven former coalition interpreters are thought to have been killed this year.

To qualify for relocation, interpreters must fulfil a list of conditions as well as prove they were in an exposed role that now puts them in 'imminent danger'.

Meeting all the criteria can be impossible because of missing paperwork. The British embassy in Kabul, which administers the ARAP, is short staffed, leading to delays and clerical errors when dealing with the huge caseload.

More than 1,000 interpreters – 35 per cent of the total – had their service terminated, a fact that generally rules out the chance of a successful application.

The officers, including former Army chief Lord Dannatt and former special forces leader Brigadier Ed Butler, argue the criteria should be less onerous. 

'Punished for obeying orders'

Arif had his application for sanctuary rejected because he was dismissed from his job as a British Army interpreter.

He has since been repeatedly threatened and attacked in Afghanistan and now fears he is being abandoned to the Taliban.

The 36-year-old father insisted his dismissal was an injustice that followed a change in command.

Arif (right) had his application for sanctuary rejected because he was dismissed from his job as a British Army interpreter

'I think they wanted to reduce the numbers of interpreters so I was sacrificed,' he said.

'Now my life and that of my family has been put 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 those in UK do not want to. Please show compassion and help.'

Their letter says: 'Time is of the utmost essence to save the lives of those who served alongside our servicemen and women in Afghanistan and who saved countless British lives.

'It is clear there is insufficient capacity for ARAP to cope with the scale and pace required.

'If any of our former interpreters are murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the dishonour would lay squarely at our nation's feet. ARAP is not providing the sanctuary that the British public have been led to believe is being granted to our former Afghan interpreters and colleagues.

'Too many of our former interpreters have unnecessarily and unreasonably been rejected from relocation to safety in the UK and we strongly urge that the policy is reviewed again immediately, to ensure more are given sanctuary.

'The current policy discriminates against the 35 per cent of staff dismissed from service for various reasons without any due process or ability to appeal their dismissal. We urge the Government to amend the policy so that all former interpreters are offered the chance to be resettled to the UK unless it is proven that they have committed such an offence that constitutes a threat to national security.'

Britain has begun the biggest rescue operation for nearly 50 years with around 3,500 Afghans, including 800 interpreters and their families, expected to be relocated to these shores.

'Freedom Flights' have been arriving in the UK with joyous families celebrating their liberty and safety from attack.

The Taliban has launched a sweeping offensive across Afghanistan following the US drawdown ahead of a complete withdrawal by August 31 

Left at mercy of the Taliban 

Wazir, who worked on the front line and in medical units for four years, 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 he has received numerous threats from the Taliban. His brother was murdered because the killers could not find Wazir, his family said.

'We have tried everything to live safely and silently in Afghanistan but it has been impossible,' said Wazir. 'This is only because of my work for the British forces who I risked my life for and now my family pays the penalty. It is hard to bear.'

Despite glowing references from British officers, his bid for relocation was refused because he was dismissed for being in a room where an interpreter was smoking drugs.

Wazir(right), a former frontline interpreter with UK forces, was refused relocation to UK under ARAP

This newspaper's award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign has repeatedly highlighted the threat to the interpreters and the near insurmountable obstacles placed before those seeking sanctuary. The present version of ARAP, introduced in April, is considered an improvement on earlier schemes but still seems to be too slow and less than generous.

The signatories of today's letter have a unique insight into the role of interpreters and other staff while representing every aspect of the veteran community involved in the Afghanistan campaign.

They include several former chiefs of defence staff, heads of the Army, Navy and Air Force, four former commanders of Task Force Helmand, one former deputy supreme allied commander Europe, a former chief of defence intelligence and former government minister Johnny Mercer.

The Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for the former interpreters, and which has co-ordinated the letter to the Prime Minister, has details of 450 cases refused under ARAP because they were terminated, did not work in an 'exposed' role or were not directly employed by the UK government.

The Daily Mail is aware of additional cases.

Other factors that count against applicants include that they were sub-contracted rather than directly employed by the UK. In cases where their service was terminated, they must have committed a minor offence, rather than a serious crime. 

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