Afghan army interpreters given right to settle in UK
Government changes policy after lobbying campaign and years of legal limbo
Afghan interpreters who served alongside the British army have been granted the right to resettle in the UK.
Under the government’s previous relocation scheme, only interpreters who served with the British army in Afghanistan’s Helmand province from 2012 and for at least a year were eligible to resettle in the UK.
Now, following years of lobbying and legal uncertainty, the government has announced that around 50 interpreters who served on the frontline alongside British soldiers as far back as 2006 will be granted five-year visas to Britain as part of new qualifying measures. They will also be able to bring their wives and children, taking the figure to an estimated 200.
The move comes at a time when the British government has faced “severe criticism for its treatment of immigrants and Afghan interpreters” reports CNN.
Despite the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, as recently as April a government policy review insisted it remained a safe country for Afghans who had assisted the British army during the nearly two decades-long conflict.
Last month more than 150 interpreters signed a joint letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying they'd been told to pay thousands of pounds in visa application fees.
The government’s decision to extend the scheme has been hailed by the Daily Mail as a “huge victory” for the paper’s three-year Betrayal of the Brave campaign, which revealed how interpreters left behind in Afghanistan were shot at, issued with death threats and even executed on their doorsteps.
Writing for the Mail, the Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson praised interpreters as the “unsung heroes” who served with “dazzling distinction” following the 2001 US-led military invasion.
He admitted the existing policy “failed to take account of the immense sacrifice and service of many who had left before that time ”.
Yet despite welcoming the change in policy, campaigners believe the proposed changes could help some interpreters who served, “but would still leave a large number who are being removed at risk” says CNN.