28 May 2013

Afghan interpreter deal will fail to protect enough, says David Davis

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In a letter published in today’s Times newspaper (paywall link), former foreign minister and shadow home secretary David Davis, major general Timothy Cross and the head of the refugee charity Refugee Action are among those to warn that the government’s recent decision to offer a settlement package to some Afghan interpreters risks excluding many of those who served British troops in Afghanistan. The letter comes from a group containing parliamentary, military and campaigning voices, who welcome the government’s commitment to offer asylum to some of the interpreters, but are concerned that the terms will arbitrarily deny protection to many who need it.

The Times news report notes that several of the translators who have been prominent in public campaigns on this issue would be excluded by the narrow terms of the deal. Afghan interpreter Rafi Hottak said he would be among those excluded by the proposed terms. Hottak did have his own asylum claim accepted, after its initial refusal, once the case came to public attention. Another interpreter, 27-year-old Abdul, who began an online petition with the campaign group Avaaz which has generated over 80,o00 signatures, would also fall outside the mooted terms.

A government statement offers grounds to hope that renewed pressure can alter the final offer, as this has yet to be finalised.

“Officials have drafted the proposed redundancy package, which will now be considered, fine-tuned and approved by Ministers by the end of May,” a government spokesman told The Times newspaper.

A recent YouGov poll for British Future showed the public believe the government should allow the interpreters to settle, a view held by six out of 10 of those expressing a view.

Letter to The Times:

Sir, We welcome the decision to grant some Afghan interpreters the right to resettle in the UK. The principle was established in Iraq, and there is no reason to treat our brave Afghan interpreters differently.

However, the proposed relocation package falls short of guaranteeing protection and safety for many brave individuals. Specifically, the asylum offer may only apply to those working on or after January 1, 2013; excluding hundreds who risked their lives alongside UK troops in this decade-long war.

Death threats forced many interpreters to stop working for the British before 2013, and many are still in hiding. Under such a deal, Abdul — who courageously raised the alarm about the hundreds of men at risk and whom 82,000 people have backed — may not be offered sanctuary in the UK as he stopped working with the British Army in June last year.

It would be an affront to the proud tradition of this country as signatory to the UN Convention on Refugees to refuse protection and safety to those who put their lives on the line to serve with our forces. We urge the Government to extend the protection measures and offer a safe haven to all of our translators in Afghanistan, and not abandon the hundreds who, stranded by this deal, will be left to live in fear of execution by the Taleban.

David Davis, MP

Stephen McPartland, MP

Baroness Berridge

Major-General Timothy Cross

Dave Garratt, Refugee Action

Alex Wilks, Avaaz

Sunder Katwala, British Future

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