There are times when I feel that Britain is the most confused place on earth, intent on its own degradation and destruction. This is one of those times. The disgraceful and shaming revelation that an Afghan man known as “Shaffy”, who gave vital service to the country as a linguist (translating for, among others, Prime Minister David Cameron), has not been granted asylum in the UK despite credible death threats, sits in grim contrast to news that a Jihadist preacher with links to Osama bin Laden will be allowed to remain in the UK to continue his decade long fight for British citizenship. The preacher, known in the courts only as “FM’” has so far cost the taxpayer tens of thousands of pounds in court fees.
It is a subject I feel strongly about. My company, New Century, which mentors and trains the Afghan Police Special Branch, relies heavily on what we call our “Cultural Advisors”. We use this term because they are so much more than translators. They must speak Dari (the official language of Afghanistan), Pathan (the language most commonly spoken amongst the Taliban and their support base), and of course English to a very high standard (which it has to be if they are going to understand what their former Royal Ulster Constabulary mentors are saying!) A senior Nato general describes these men and women as “more valuable than ammunition” in the complex fight against subversion and terror.
It was the same with the locally recruited translators that the UK military relied on in recent conflicts. The understanding was that in exchange for paid work, the linguists would put on British Army uniforms and accompany British soldiers to the most dangerous corners of Afghanistan interpreting, liaising, aiding understanding and often spotting danger long before it was apparent to one not from the region. Part of that understanding was that as they looked out for our soldiers, we would look out for them after their service.
Indeed there was a package put together by The Foreign Office and Home Office, albeit with bureaucratic – some would say Byzantine complexity. However this package drew the line at those who served on or after January 1 2013. That left many, including “Shaffy”, who served before that, abandoned and at the tender mercy of the jihadists. It was for this reason a group of veterans including Winston Churchill’s great grandson and I handed in a petition of 53,000 signatures demanding justice for the “left behinds” to Number 10 Downing Street on August 14 2013. It was duly ignored.
Contrast this with the inability and, frankly, the unwillingness of our courts to expel those who hate our country and strive on a daily basis to destroy it; who have their lavish lifestyles and burgeoning families paid for by the tax payer. While they bring their extended families to the UK in ease and comfort, the clear message to those who served us with great loyalty is: “If you really want to get to the UK get in touch with a people trafficker.” For that is the way many have had to go. I can think off the top of my head of one former linguist who got here via that route – but his young family drowned on the journey. Or of another who spent two years in a German detention camp before making it here. There were no barristers arguing their case or trendy Lefties screaming for their rights.
In the five years that my company has been working in Afghanistan we have seen the vital work done by these brave men and women. The understanding they create not only by the spoken word but by the close relationships they form with the UK military and the relationships and understanding that they facilitate between the Afghan military, police and government and all that delivered at what we in the military call “the sharp end”. We have had a linguist shot through the head in Iraq and lost two in Afghanistan – one killed in action with US Special Forces, leaving behind a young family here.
The man, Zaki, was a close friend of mine. In his short time in the UK he had become a real English gentleman so very proud of his adopted hometown, St Albans and its Abbey. His family struggled to get over his loss but now take a fierce pride in their father’s sacrifice. His daughters (multilingual students at the top of their classes) held a “‘Help for Heroes” fete that raised thousands of pounds in his memory and his wife, who qualified along with him as a doctor in Kabul, is now a GP practising here. Another of our linguists was the man who foiled an attack at the Former UK base at Musa Quala in 2010 and saved a US Osprey Helicopter with 16 men on board, including a 3 star US General. Again contrast that with the hate preachers who live comfortably at the UK Taxpayer’s expense, parading about in the political uniform of jihadists and whom we can’t, or won’t, do a thing about.
As in 2013 I make the same call to the Prime Minister. Where is your shame? Where is the leadership? If we are powerless to tackle the extremists so be it; but do right by these loyal translators who have served the UK so well.