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Afghan translators who served with UK troops win right to come to UK

11 Jun 2018 Daily Mail Online

Dozens of Afghan interpreters who served with British troops will be given sanctuary in the UK after a campaign by the Mail.Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson last night tore up a ‘failed’ policy that meant brave translators were abandoned to the Taliban.Around 50 who served on the frontline in Helmand alongside UK soldiers will now be granted visas to Britain under new qualifying measures. They will also be able to bring their wives and children, taking the figure to an estimated 200.The decision is a huge victory for the Mail’s three-year Betrayal of the Brave campaign, which revealed how interpreters left behind in Afghanistan were shot at, issued with death threats and even executed on their doorsteps. The Afghan translators were injured in Helmand Province (shown in a stock picture) alongside UK troopsMr Williamson said a review of the Government’s existing relocation scheme would honour the ‘extraordinary service’ of those who risked their lives to serve with our Armed Forces. Writing in the Mail today, he said: ‘Frontline patrol interpreters were the unsung heroes of the military campaign in Afghanistan.‘They served our nation with dazzling distinction. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our troops on the battlefield, they demonstrated unflinching courage in carrying out duties that were fraught with great difficulty and danger. And we will do what is right to honour their extraordinary service.’He added: ‘That is why after reviewing the scheme we are bringing forward plans to make it fairer and to make sure we deliver for those who were at greatest risk for the longest periods.’Under the current relocation scheme, interpreters had to be serving on an arbitrary date in December 2012 to qualify. They also had to have served in Helmand – the scene of some of the fiercest fighting – for at least a year. RELATED ARTICLES Previous 1 Next Two hero Afghan translators who were nearly killed serving... Tory MP Johnny Mercer tackled racist thug to the ground... Former SAS Afghan interpreter reveals he was hunted and shot... Outrage at the betrayal of our loyal Afghan interpreters as... Share this article Share 123 shares So far, several hundred former translators have started new lives here, but the policy has also excluded those who worked with British troops during some of the worst fighting in Helmand in the years before 2012. Mr Williamson will widen the qualifying period to include those who spent at least a year with British forces as far back as 2006 to allow ‘those interpreters who put their lives on the line during those difficult years in Helmand to be able to move to the UK’.He admitted the existing policy ‘failed to take account of the immense sacrifice and service of many who had left before that time [2012]’. The qualifying period for the relocation policy now extends back to May 1 2006, the day British forces assumed responsibility for Helmand.Those deemed eligible to come to the UK will be granted a five-year visa. They will then have to apply for indefinite leave to remain, but the £2,389 application fee will be waived.Mr Williamson will also review cases in which interpreters were not made redundant but served on the frontline under short-term contracts or were forced to quit because of death threats. Hope at last for translator who helped the SAS  A former Afghan interpreter for the SAS who was hunted relentlessly by the Taliban is among those whose cases will now be reviewed.Abdul, who worked on the frontline for nearly five years, was forced to ‘hide in the shadows’ after the property where he was staying was sprayed with bullets as part of a terrifying campaign of intimidation.Speaking from his hiding place in Kabul last night, he said: ‘This is very good news and I pray that I will be included with my wife and children. We have been hiding from the Taliban for too long.’ Lives on the line: Abdul, right, with another Afghan interpreter in HelmandThe 35-year-old father-of-four is desperate to be reunited with his brother, who was also a translator and has been granted sanctuary in Britain. Abdul began working for UK forces in 2007 but stopped in June 2012 when his contract ended and he did not try to renew it because of death threats.Because he stopped working before the December 2012 qualification date, he was not entitled to come to Britain under the UK’s relocation scheme.  Up to 70 Afghan interpreters are thought to be affected in this way. The relocation policy was one of two under which those who served for the UK Armed Forces during the 13-year war could be given sanctuary. A second measure, known as an intimidation scheme, forced interpreters to ‘prove’ they were threatened by the Taliban.However, a scathing report by the Commons defence select committee last month found that not a single interpreter had been allowed to the UK under the scheme. A Daily Mail-backed petition over the treatment of translators was signed by more than 178,000 people, including former generals and politicians.Last night many of those who backed our campaign expressed their delight at its outcome.Alexander Perkins, who completed two tours in Afghanistan as a captain in the Scots Guards, said: ‘I am delighted that our Government has decided to scrap this arbitrary policy. ‘It’s staggering that it’s taken five years and so much work from so many people for them to simply do the right thing.’We owe translators concrete actions rather than just words, says Defence Secretary GAVIN WILLIAMSON Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson praised the campaign Frontline patrol interpreters were the unsung heroes of the military campaign in Afghanistan. Standing shoulder to shoulder with our troops on the battlefield they demonstrated unflinching courage in carrying out duties that were fraught with great difficulty and danger.The Mail has led the way in championing their contribution – and I cannot be clearer in expressing our nation’s eternal appreciation to these brave individuals who regularly risked life and limb to help defeat our enemies and protect us from terrorists.But we owe them more than just warm words.That’s why today I am announcing that we will bring forward plans to expand our relocation scheme to recognise and honour their service – meaning more former Afghan interpreters and their families can start a new life here in the United Kingdom if they wish to do so.More than 1,000 Afghans have made Britain their home under the Government’s existing arrangements following the gradual withdrawal of British combat troops.And we estimate up to a further 200 will be able to benefit from the changes we are proposing, which will see the relocation eligibility criteria extended by six years. This will see all interpreters who were made redundant having served for at least a year on the front line from May 2006 eligible to come here along with their families.This marks the date British forces took control of the operation in Helmand and is a departure from the existing rules, which meant interpreters had to still be serving in December 2012 to qualify.While initially this was done with the best of intentions to mark the announcement of the gradual British withdrawal from the region, it failed to take account of the immense sacrifice and service of many who had left before that time.That is why after reviewing the scheme we are bringing forward plans to make it fairer and to make sure we deliver for those who were at greatest risk for the longest periods.Britain is a nation that always takes its international responsibilities seriously.That’s why we have supported hundreds of Afghans who worked alongside our troops in a range of roles financially as well as by offering education and training opportunities for five years.We also continue to be the only country to have a team based in Afghanistan dedicated to responding to threats made against our valued former Afghan colleagues.As Defence Secretary, I will always be a voice for our Armed Forces and for those who steadfastly support them.Brave Afghan interpreters played a vital role in keeping our streets safe from those who want to do this country harm.They served our nation with dazzling distinction.And we will do what is right to honour their extraordinary service. Mr Perkins, the great-grandson of Winston Churchill, added: ‘As great as this is for those who are now able to re-locate to the UK, we must not forget that in the interim period some interpreters and their families have died as a result of the initial policy – either directly at the hands of the Taliban or in attempting to escape.’Former Afghan interpreter Rafi Hottak said: ‘I am very pleased at this change of policy and I would like to thank the Daily Mail for its compassionate, powerful campaign that has never given up on interpreters and helped bring this about.’ Dr Julian Lewis, chairman of the Commons defence select committee, said the Government must still overhaul its intimidation scheme. He said: ‘There may well be people who loyally served British troops at risk of intimidation that will not qualify for relocation under the rules.’Major James Driscoll, who started a petition in 2015, said: ‘At last the British Government are doing the right thing. This is fantastic.’  

Original Link: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-5827979/Translators-served-alongside-British-troops-win-right-come-UK-years-uncertainty.html?ITO=1490&ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490

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