CONSERVATIVE
New Forest East

'MPs’ OUTRAGE AT BETRAYAL OF AFGHAN INTERPRETERS'

They back Mail campaign and reveal not one translator has come here under flagship scheme

By Larisa Brown, Defence and Security Editor 

Daily Mail – 26 May 2018

Ministers have dismally failed to protect loyal Afghan interpreters who served alongside UK troops from the Taliban, MPs say today. An inquiry by the Defence Select Committee concludes that “dangerously exposed” interpreters should be given a new life in Britain. MPs said the Ministry of Defence's Intimidation Scheme', under which translators have to prove a threat to their life before they are allowed into the UK, had failed to bring a single one to safety in this country.

The explosive report states that claims by the MoD that no interpreters have faced threats warranting their relocation to the UK are ‘totally implausible'. It draws on evidence of the threats facing interpreters gathered by the Daily Mail's Betrayal of the Brave campaign. Since 2015 the campaign has exposed countless scandals in which Afghan interpreters who put themselves in danger to help UK troops have been abandoned. The report says:

“We have a duty of care to those who risked everything to help our Armed Forces in Afghanistan.”

Dr Julian Lewis, Chairman of the cross-party committee, said:

“This is not only a matter of honour. How we treat our former interpreters and local employees, many of whom served with great bravery, will send a message to the people we would want to employ in future military campaigns – about whether we can be trusted to protect them from reprisals at the hands of our enemies.”

The findings will pile further pressure on Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson and Home Secretary Sajid Javid to overhaul current policy on Afghan interpreters. Last night the MoD said it would review the report and its recommendations.

There are currently two schemes under which interpreters who served alongside UK troops can be given sanctuary in the UK. The ‘Redundancy Scheme' only allows interpreters into the UK if they were serving on an arbitrary date in December 2012. They also have to have served at least 12 months in Helmand province.

The report cites former Afghan interpreter Rafi Hottak who said this meant that

“many who risked the most on the front line and faced threats do not qualify”. 

But the report says this scheme had been “generous” in allowing interpreters who lost their jobs when UK forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan into Britain. This generosity had, however, contrasted starkly with the total failure to offer similar sanctuary to interpreters' under the intimidation scheme, it says.

This failure comes despite the Mail campaign revealing how Afghan interpreters and their families have been shot at, threatened and even executed after being branded “spies and infidels” by the Taliban. The Mail's evidence to the inquiry included testimony from former interpreters and their families still in Afghanistan and those who have made it to Britain. The report says: 

“The intimidation scheme has dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection. Given our Government's own stark assessment of the perilous Afghan security situation, the idea that no interpreters … have faced threats and intimidation warranting their relocation to the UK is totally implausible.”

The report says Ministers must allow interpreters who face “serious and verifiable threats” to come to Britain, adding that there is “ample scope” for a looser and more sympathetic approach to the application of the scheme. It says: 

“The Government must abandon its policy of leaving former interpreters and other loyal personnel dangerously exposed in a country deemed too dangerous for those charged with assessing their claims [of intimidation] to venture out from their bases in order to do so.”

The report also says that those interpreters already in the UK must also be given indefinite leave to remain' so they can stay without fear of being kicked out.

Earlier this month the Mail revealed concerns about the relocation scheme. More than 150 interpreters said they feared they would be booted out because they could not afford the £2,389 fee to apply for indefinite leave. Mr Javid then waived the fee, which they would have had to have paid after five years in the UK. The MoD said: 

“We thank the committee for their report, which notes that more than 400 interpreters and local staff have relocated to the UK with their families, and we will now review the report and its recommendations.”

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‘AFGHAN INTERPRETERS AT MERCY OF TALIBAN AFTER WHITEHALL “FAILURE” ’

By Dominic Nicholls

Daily Telegraph – 26 May 2018

A Government programme to help former interpreters for British forces in Afghanistan has been heavily criticised in a report which found it failed to bring a single one to safety in Britain. The Intimidation Scheme

"dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection",

the report by the Defence Select Committee found. Many Afghans felt abandoned by the UK Government's "utter failure" and have resorted to people smugglers to escape the "revenge of the Taliban", evidence also showed. The investigation, Lost in Translation?: Afghan interpreters and Other Locally Employed Civilians, called for a more "sympathetic approach" to those who risked their lives to aid British forces in the conflict.

Conservative Julian Lewis MP, the committee's Chairman, said: 

"This is not only a matter of honour. How we treat our former interpreters and local employees, many of whom served with great bravery, will send a message to the people we would want to employ in future military campaigns – about whether we can be trusted to protect them from revenge and reprisals at the hands of our enemies."

Set up to help civilians at risk of reprisals from the Taliban after working for British forces during the Afghanistan campaign, the scheme had instead gone to "considerable lengths" to stop the relocation to the UK of Afghan nationals who were threatened and intimidated, the committee said.

The failure of the scheme was in marked contrast to a second "generous and proportionate" programme. The Redundancy Scheme, which saw 1,150 Afghans re-homed in Britain, only applied to those who were still working for the Armed Forces at the time of the UK's withdrawal from Afghanistan, provided they had been working for over a year in Helmand Province. About half of the approximately 7,000 civilians who worked for the British in Afghanistan were interpreters and they often worked in dangerous situations. The committee called for a more sympathetic approach and urged the Government to abandon its "relocation only in extremis" policy.

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‘AFGHAN TRANSLATORS 'DISMALLY FAILED' BY THE UK, SAY MPs’

By May Bulman, Social Affairs Correspondent

Independent (Daily Edition) – 26 May 2018

Afghan interpreters who risked their lives while serving for the British Army have been "dismally failed" by the UK Government, MPs have warned, as it emerges a scheme designed to offer them protection has not brought a single one to safety in Britain. A report by the Defence Committee said the ‘Intimidation scheme’ – designed to help local interpreters at risk of reprisals from the Taliban – had not offered any interpreters refuge in Britain, despite reports of threats and intimidation.

During the UK's involvement in Afghanistan, British forces were supported by some 7,000 locally employed civilians (LECs), about half of whom fulfilled vital roles as interpreters, who were often exposed to "extremely dangerous" situations. But despite the Government stating the UK owes these individuals "debt and gratitude" for their work in the Army, it appears to go to considerable lengths to prevent interpreters and other locally employed civilians from being relocated in Britain, MPs said.

A separate programme, known as the ‘Redundancy Scheme’, has provided financial support within Afghanistan for former employees who lost their jobs and has enabled some 1,150 LECs and dependents to settle in the UK – but it was available only to staff who were in post on 19 December 2012. The report states that the Government's scheme to safeguard Afghan interpreters threatened with reprisals for working with the British Army had "dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection" from the Taliban.

"Given our government's own stark assessment of the perilous Afghan security situation, the idea that no interpreters or other former LECs have faced threats and intimidation warranting their relocation to the UK is totally implausible,"

it continued. Dr Julian Lewis MP, Chairman of the Defence Committee, warned that such treatment could make it more difficult to employ local interpreters in future military campaigns.

"How we treat our former interpreters and local employees, many of whom served with great bravery, will send a message to the people we would want to employ in future military campaigns – about whether we can be trusted to protect them from revenge and reprisals at the hands of our enemies,"

he said. The Committee recommended a more sympathetic approach and a looser application of the Intimidation Scheme, saying the Government should abandon its "relocation only in extremis" policy in favour of a more needs-based approach to those facing intimidation for sharing frontline dangers with British troops.

It comes after an announcement by home secretary Sajid Javid that Afghan interpreters who came on a separate five-year visa scheme would be allowed to stay in the UK for free  but this only applied to those who worked during a set period of time. Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, an interpreter who was not eligible for this package, was issued a deportation notice from the UK in December, but had his removal halted by the High Court after the Independent highlighted his plight. He is currently still in limbo waiting for the Home Office to confirm whether he can stay.

Former troop leader Toby Mossop, who served alongside Mr Husseinkhel in the region, told the Independent it was "unfair and unjust" that people who had been "exposed to dangers" for the British Army were not allowed to come to the UK.

"My own interpreter stopped working for UK forces in mid-2012, but he had spent well over 12 months working with us – exposed to all the same dangers as interpreters who were still working with UK forces in late 2012. In fact, by late 2012, the security situation had improved and UK forces were being exposed to enemy threats rather less than earlier in the campaign,"

he said.

"I would urge the Government to give this issue their full attention and come to a fair and just decision – it is quite simply a case of doing the right thing and we should not be creating barriers to accepting those people who truly deserve a place here. It is quite clear what the right thing to do is – and unacceptable the Home Office is taking so long to deliberate over individual cases, let alone an overarching final decision. I would echo the comments of others, in suggesting that the way in which we act now may influence our ability to hire local civilians in any future campaigns."

The Ministry of Defence spokesperson said:

"We recognise the vital role interpreters and local staff played in operations in Afghanistan and we are the only nation with a permanent expert team based in Kabul to investigate intimidation claims. Our intimidation policy is designed to ensure that former Afghan local staff are safe to live their lives in the country and we provide tailored security advice and support to individuals. We thank the committee for their report, which notes that more than 400 interpreters and local staff have relocated to the UK with their families under another scheme, and we will now review the report and its recommendations."

* * *

‘AFGHAN INTERPRETERS’ SCHEME “UTTER FAILURE”, SAY MPs’

BBC News Online – 26 May 2018

A scheme aimed at protecting Afghan civilians who worked as interpreters for the Army has not resettled a single person in the UK and has proved an "utter failure", MPs have said. The Commons Defence Committee said the Intimidation Scheme had instead gone to lengths to stop relocations. The Ministry of Defence says Britain is the only nation that has a team in Kabul, investigating intimidation. But Col Simon Diggins said interpreters were being attacked in Afghanistan.

"We have credible evidence of individuals being murdered, others have been chased out of their homes,"

the former Defence Attaché to Kabul told BBC Radio 4's Today programme. About 2,000 former interpreters are "stuck" in Afghanistan "under continual daily threat", he said. In Afghanistan,

"if you worked for any coalition countries including the British, your neighbours will know",

BBC Defence Correspondent Jonathan Beale added.

Tory MP and Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Select Committee Tom Tugendhat, who served in Afghanistan, said the Government had a "duty of care" for locally employed civilians. Mr Tugendhat told the BBC an interpreter he had served alongside

"earned his place in the UK many times over. But there are others and that is why I gave evidence to the committee,"

he added. The cross-party report said the Intimidation Scheme's shortcomings were in contrast to another initiative, known as the Redundancy Scheme, which has seen 1,150 Afghans re-homed in Britain. It called for a more "sympathetic approach" to those who risked their lives to support British forces during their 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan, which ended in 2014.

Tory MP Julian Lewis, who chairs the Defence Committee, said if the UK earns a reputation

"for leaving those people who put their lives at risk to help our soldiers, at the mercy of our enemies",

it would be difficult to find local people prepared to help in future conflicts.

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Mohammed Hares, an Afghan interpreter for the British Army from 2009 to 2014

Mohammed Hares was relocated to the UK in 2016 and now chairs the Sulha Network – which represents Afghan interpreters:

“When you leave home in the morning, you don't know whether you are going to come back home alive. And that is not just the interpreters themselves, but also the families. They can't tell anybody even nowadays that they were interpreters. If people find out even now, they will just kill them. They will kill their families, they will kill them, they will torture them, they will put the videos on social media as a lesson for everybody else. I think when we were working with the British Army in Afghanistan, we helped them to achieve their aims. We helped them in the worst situations. We saved their lives. Now it is their duty to do their job and to help those people who are still in Afghanistan.”

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The Redundancy Scheme is open to Afghan civilians who had been working in front-line roles for at least 12 months when the UK began to reduce its troop presence in late 2012. The committee noted that despite previous criticism of its criteria, that scheme had been "generous and proportionate".

While the Intimidation Scheme was "in theory" open to all civilians working for the British, the report found that it had focused "overwhelmingly" on ways of keeping them in Afghanistan, through internal relocation or the offer of security advice, and that resettlement to the UK was seen as a last resort. The report also criticised the Afghan government, which was involved in creating the schemes, saying its claim that relocation might lead to a "brain drain" was "disingenuous".

"It is impossible to reconcile the generosity of the Redundancy Scheme with the utter failure of the Intimidation Scheme to relocate even a single locally employed citizen to the United Kingdom,"

it concluded.

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'Significant Danger'

Campaigners welcomed the report and urged the Government to reconsider its approach.

"Many of our brother interpreters found themselves in significant danger after the British campaign in Helmand,"

said a spokesman for the Sulha Network – which represents Afghan interpreters.

"The eligibility criteria for the resettlement [Redundancy] Scheme was arbitrary and narrow and the Intimidation Scheme has only served to give false hope to those who fear for their safety."

The Ministry of Defence said it would take note of the criticism.

"Our intimidation policy is designed to ensure that former Afghan local staff are safe to live their lives in the country and we provide tailored security advice and support to individuals,"

a spokesman said.

Earlier this month, it was announced that Afghan interpreters who were relocated to Britain would not have to pay the Home Office to stay. More than 150 translators given a five-year visa to seek sanctuary in Britain wrote to new Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson to highlight their concerns. The interpreters who worked on the battlefield in Helmand Province had said they faced deportation if they could not find the £2,398 per person to apply for indefinite leave to remain once their visas expired.

[Similar reports were published in The Times, Guardian, Express, Sun and Mirror.]