Afghan interpreters can live in UK to avoid Taliban revenge

Government climbdown gives 600 interpreters right to move, but what message does it send?

A British soldier (C) and his interpreter (L) talk with an Afghan actor playing the part of a villager during a training exercise in a new "Afghan village" at a military base in Norfolk, in e
(Image credit: 2009 AFP)

UP TO 600 Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to aid British troops in Afghanistan are to be given the right to move to Britain. The government had initially opposed plans to offer Afghan interpreters the same resettlement rights as those afforded their Iraqi counterparts after the conflict in that country, but had a change of heart after what The Times calls a "backlash". Interpreters who worked alongside British troops on the frontline for a year or more will now be allowed to bring their families to Britain on a five-year visa. When it expires they will be able to apply for leave to stay indefinitely. "The package represents a climbdown from earlier suggestions that most interpreters would have to risk reprisals as collaborators by the Taliban after coalition forces leave a still unstable country at the end of 2014," says The Guardian. "There was... a fear that a blanket right to come to the UK would be taken as a signal that security will collapse, and reprisals proliferate, once the coalition forces depart at the end of 2014." Other Afghans who were employed as cooks and guards by the British army will also be offered a better financial package once it pulls out. The Times, which has campaigned on the issue, says the government has taken the right decision. "To place yourself in the firing line in a military conflict is the most onerous duty that a state can demand of its citizens. Taking on extreme danger should also be enough to warrant the granting of asylum for nationals of another country," it argues. The Daily Mail points out that a survey of interpreters in Afghanistan found that 94 per cent had received threats after working for the British and only three per cent said they would feel safe in the country once the UK troops were gone. Not everyone agrees. Among those arguing against encouraging the interpreters to move to the UK is the former Welsh Guards officer Crispin Black. "Immigration is a zero-sum game,” he wrote for The Week recently. “The qualities and energies some immigrants bring to their new countries are lost to their old ones.

“The Afghan interpreters who have helped our boys are precisely the sort of people who are going to be needed in the future Afghanistan when the Western troops depart."

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