Britain 'owes Afghan interpreters a debt of honour’

File photo: Helmand Province where 3,000 Afghans were employed as interpreters by British forces during their operations
File photo: Helmand Province where 3,000 Afghans were employed as interpreters by British forces during their operations  Photo: PA

The Government was is under new pressure to help Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces during their 13-year campaign against the Taliban.

New figures obtained by The Telegraph show that nearly 3,000 Afghans were employed as interpreters by British forces during their operations in Helmand province – more than previously thought.

Many of those men now fear for their lives and those of their families following the withdrawal of British forces in October last year.

It emerged on Saturday that a former Afghan translator was murdered on his own doorstep after being branded a ‘British spy’ by the Taliban.

Parwiz Khan, 22, who had given up interpreting for the British Army in 2011 after receiving death threats, was shot at least four times in the chest at his family’s farm, on August 2.

It came as controversy continues to rage over the Government’s refusal to offer asylum to more Afghan interpreters, including one who said he felt "abandoned" despite putting himself in danger by working for the Prime Minister.

Members of the Afghan security services manning a checkpoint on a roadside in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan
Members of the Afghan security services manning a checkpoint on a roadside in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, Afghanistan  Photo: EPA

The 26-year-old, known as Shaffy, worked as one of the British Army's most senior interpreters in Afghanistan, including a spell with Mr Cameron in 2011.

He said that photographs of him with the Prime Minister have been used by the Taliban as evidence that he was a British spy.

Shaffy has accused the government of abandoning him, despite working for six years with the British military and being caught up in two bomb blasts.

His plight prompted Lord Dannatt, the former head of the Army, to urge the public to sign a 100,000 strong petition calling for all translators who worked with the British Army to be offered sanctuary in the UK.

Figures released under a Freedom of Information request by the Ministry of Defence now show that a total of 2,904 Afghan citizens were employed as interpreters for British forces in Afghanistan between 2001 and 2014.

But only a handful have so far been offered asylum in Britain, under a scheme which offered relocation only to those employed on front line duties between December 2012 and December 2014.

That excluded hundreds who worked with British troops during some of the worst of the fighting in Helmand in the years before 2012.

British police working in Kabul have recommended that former interpreters take measures to protect themselves, such as changing their cars or their phones.

But one former interpreter yesterday told this newspaper that he lives in daily fear for his life and is desperate to come to Britain.

The 30-year-old father of two, who lives in Helmand province, worked for British forces from 2006 till the end of 2014.

As part of his duties he had to travel with British troops to other southern provinces of Kandahar and Uruzgan and once he spent 18 days in a desert as soldiers tracked Taliban fighters.

He said: "It was indeed a very dangerous job; you would expect death every moment."

The former interpreter said the danger did not end when British troops pulled put.

He said: “People would say he is a spy working for foreign forces. I have heard that people were talking about me too, they (Taliban) also have my voice recorded from during my work for British forces."

The man added: “Now when I go out and if any motorcycle approaches me, I feel that they are the killers and will attack me now. I go out and come back home with a fear always. I'm really worried about my children and wife.”

He applied for asylum in the UK ten months ago through the British embassy in Kabul, but says hehas heard nothing since.

“The British Prime Minister David Cameron should not forget that we helped their soldiers in a very bad situation. Now when we are going to suffer, they must help us out, because we risked our life for them, and we still feel in danger,” he said.

Afghan security services look down from a reinforced position above a checkpoint in the Helmand province
Afghan security services look down from a reinforced position above a checkpoint in the Helmand province  Photo: EPA

His message has been echoed by senior military figures who argue we owe the interpreters a “debt of honour” for their work in assisting the British Army’s fight against the Taliban.

Colonel Richard Kemp, who commanded British forces in Afghanistan, said the murder of Mr Khan, made that obligation even more pressing.

“The execution of Parwiz Kahn is a fate that awaits all Afghans who worked as interpreters for the British forces, who become known to the Taliban and remain in danger areas,” said Col. Kemp.

He added: “The British Government’s refusal to allow endangered interpreters into this country effectively signs their death warrant.”

Lord Dannatt told The Telegraph: "We have a moral obligation to look after them. If they feel they are not able to live their previous life they have earned the right to come and live in this country.

"I know that immigration is a real problem but the number we are talking about is so small that actually making a fuss about it is a real embarrassment. We have a debt of honour. “

More than 60 Afghan interpreters who worked alongside British troops have contacted UK lawyers in recent months for help to get out of the country because of Taliban death threats.

A law firm challenging the Government’s decision not to give Afghan interpreters the same right to settle in Britain as those who served in Iraq, says it is now receiving several calls a week from Afghans trying to flee Taliban reprisals.

Rosa Curling, of law firm Leigh Day, said: “They are totally, totally desperate, they are heart-breaking calls to receive. They are getting death threats, letters under their doors, messages by mobile and threats in the local mosque.”

The Government says it is helping former interpreters in Afghanistan to rebuild their country following years of war, while at the same time working to ensure their safety.

Penny Mordaunt, the Defence Minister, said last week: “Our policy towards interpreters enables our local employees to continue to contribute positively to the future of their country, rewards those who worked for us in the most challenging roles, and takes all reasonable steps to ensure that our former employees are safe from any danger caused by their employment with us.”

She added: “I have met many locally employed staff when visiting our forces. I have always been deeply impressed by their courage and their commitment to the future of Afghanistan.”

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Source : telegraph[dot]co[dot]uk
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