By Steven Swinford, Deputy Political Editor
Daily Telegraph – 19 August 2015
David Cameron must 'urgently' offer sanctuary to Afghan interpreters including a translator who worked for him, the head of the Defence Select Committee has said. Julian Lewis said it is 'extraordinary' that the government is refusing to give asylum to those who have put themselves at risk for Britain.
His warning came after reports that an Afghan military interpreter who was denied refuge in the UK had been killed while attempting to flee the Taliban. Mr Lewis said:
'Everybody knows that in Afghanistan even the slightest suspicion or allegation that Afghans have helped Western forces amounts in effect to a death sentence.
'It is extraordinary that there should be any question of refusing sanctuary to a few hundred people who put themselves at risk in order to help the British mission in Afghanistan.
'The tragic report today demonstrates the urgency of the situation. These people are in a special category of proven friends and allies who must not be abandoned.'
There have been growing calls for Mr Cameron to help Afghan interpreters after a 26-year-old known as Shaffy said he felt 'abandoned' despite putting himself in danger by working for the Prime Minister. He worked as one of the British Army's most senior interpreters in Afghanistan, including a spell with Mr Cameron in 2011. He has said that photographs of him with the Prime Minister have been used by the Taliban as evidence that he was a British spy.
He accused the government of abandoning him, despite working for six years with the British military and being caught up in two bomb blasts. He is one of 200 Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces and have applied for help after being threatened by Taliban militants. British police working in Kabul have recommended that they take measures to protect themselves such as changing their cars or their phones. However, none of them have been granted asylum in Britain.
The interpreters missed out on a one-off assistance scheme set up last year by the government for its Afghan employees, which includes an option to relocate to Britain. The scheme only applied to those who had served on the front line in Helmand province for at least 12 months and were still working as of December 2012. Other interpreters, including Shaffy, have been forced to remain in Afghanistan.
Mr Lewis said:
'These people have proven themselves to be our loyal friends and bringing them to safety in the UK would not only be the fulfilment of a moral obligation, but it would benefit our country to have here people have shown themselves to share our values and beliefs.
'The British media [have] for months been highlighted the imminent peril in which individual interpreters have been living. These specific cases [of interpreters being killed] tragically illustrate the accuracy of the fears that were expressed on their behalf.'