Afghan interpreters who worked with the British armed forces in Afghanistan will be granted asylum in the UK, announced the British Home Secretary and the UK’s Defense Secretary on Saturday, September 19.
Afghan interpreters who "risked their lives supporting British troops" are about to begin "new lives in the UK," read a statement from the UK Home Office (interior ministry) on Saturday, September 19.
The Afghan "civilians" who had been working as interpreters for British forces "on the frontline in Helmand from May 2006-December 2014" and "serving alongside them in extremely dangerous situations," will be granted asylum, it continued.
According to the BBC, the scheme will allow about 100 more intepreters to start lives in the UK.
"They were often the eyes and ears of British forces, and their linguistic and cultural expertise enabled the UK to work hand-in-hand with our Afghan partners and local communities while protecting British troops," read the statement.
New lives in the UK
So far, the scheme allowing relocation to take place, not just for the interpreters but for their families too, has meant that 1,319 interpreters and their families have been "supported to create new lives in the UK."
Saturday’s announcement means that the "eligibility criteria" will be "significantly expanded." Up until this point, the statement points out, former interpreters had to have been made redundant "on or after May 01 2006" and to have acquired "12 months or more" service "outside the wire on the frontline," in order to be able to apply.
An "additional cohort of interpreters" will now be eligible to apply if they have served "a minimum of 18 months on the frontline" and were then forced to resign any time between 2006 and 2014.
Whilst making the announcement, both Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defense Minister Ben Wallace visited a military training area in Norfolk in the UK in order to observe Afghan national training British troops prior to their deployment in Afghanistan.
During the visit, they met with one Afghan interpreter, Dost. According to the BBC, Dost has already claimed asylum in the UK because he was previously not eligible for the scheme. He worked for the British forces as an interpreter in Helmand for "several years" but was forced to resign after being intimidated by the Taliban.
Dost made his own way to the UK via Turkey and France in 2010 before claiming asylum there.
He told the BBC that he was "very happy" that the scheme was being extended to include people like him but was "worried" for the safety of those still working in Afghanistan, and those who had worked for less than the required 18 months, or whom had fled to a third country, following intimidation.
The new scheme extension will not help interpreters like Ali* (which is an alias given to him by the BBC to protect his identity.) Ali worked as an interpreter for British forces for just seven months in 2010.
Ali explained to the BBC that the Taliban and Islamic State don't distinguish between how long you have worked for the western military. "They will kill you because you worked for the Infidel" he said.
Ali has been relocated under a different British scheme within Afghanistan and is now living in Kabul with his family, the BBC reported. According to the BBC, so far, none of the interpreters like Ali have been relocated to the UK and have all remained within Afghanistan. Ministers Patel and Wallace however assured reporters that each individual would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
'A fair system'
The statement said that Afghan nationals "routinely support the training that troops undertake to provide an element of realism – performing the roles of interpreters, leading politicians and members of the public."
Minister Wallace said: "It is crucial there is a fair system in place to support those who want to relocate to the UK, and that is why we are going even further to make sure more individuals have the opportunity to apply for relocation."
The changes to the scheme should be implemented soon after October when the changes to the secondary legislation, necessary to make the scheme happen, are expected to take place.