UK rejects Afghan interpreter's application for third time despite previous work with army

Hamzah, who served alongside British troops, has received an official warning letter from the Taliban

British soldiers in Sangin Valley, in Helmand province, in 2007. Getty Images
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An Afghan interpreter described as “diligent, honest and hard-working” by a serving British officer has had his application to relocate to the UK rejected for a third time.

Hamzah, a married father of four, served alongside British troops in Helmand province in 2011, when he was praised for helping in the move towards a “more secure and prosperous” Afghanistan.

But the Ministry of Defence has rejected his latest application, according to The Times, over security concerns due to his presence on a “watch list”.

Hamzah now fears for his life and must move regularly to evade the Taliban, who have killed hundreds of interpreters who worked with western forces.

“Me and my family are not safe in Afghanistan. My personal security remains a major concern. I am forced to relocate frequently to mitigate the ongoing risks to my safety," he told The Times.

The decision to reject his Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy application had caused him “significant disappointment and distress”, said Hamzah, who received an official warning letter from the Taliban in 2014, which he shared with British officials at the time.

“I dedicated my service to the UK and feel deeply let down,” he said. “We are in a bad situation in Afghanistan. We are not safe here.”

It represents the third time his application has been rejected. Previous reasons for rejection included that he was not directly employed by the UK government and that he had been dismissed from his job.

A serving officer told the newspaper that he assured Arap that Hamzah worked as his interpreter in 2011.

“During his time with us he was diligent, honest, hard-working and an asset," the officer said. "He worked openly without a face covering and ensured that the translation effect he provided was clear and matched my intent.

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“I personally found him to be a pleasant and hard-working man and was glad of his help, always."

He said he would “vouch” for Hamzah, emphasising the “important and often dangerous work he did for us”.

A major in the Royal Logistic Corps also described him as a “loyal professional and accurate interpreter”.

“He is wholeheartedly recommended to any future employee,” he wrote in a certificate seen by the newspaper.

Charlie Herbert, a former major general who served in Afghanistan, said Hamzah’s case should be reviewed.

“We’ve seen several instances where applicants were initially rejected on spurious grounds which were proven incorrect or untrue," he said. "One sincerely hopes that all due diligence is done to review this individual’s case.”

The Ministry of Defence said: “It is long-standing government policy that we do not comment on individual cases.

“We continue to honour our commitment to those brave Afghans that supported the UK mission in Afghanistan. So far, we have already relocated over 17,000 people to the UK under the Afghan relocation and assistance policy, which is one of the most generous relocation schemes anywhere in the world.”

In March, it was revealed dozens of Afghan citizens who risked their lives to support the UK's operations in Afghanistan are to be housed in a military camp in Wales.

The site can host up to 180 people and will be used by families who are eligible under Arap.

Arap supports people and their families who worked for, or with, the UK government and British armed forces in Afghanistan – such as interpreters.

The initiative was introduced on April 1, 2021, and remains open.

It aims to honour the service of eligible Afghan citizens by providing support that reflects their work while ensuring that they and their family members who relocate to the UK can permanently build their lives there.

Afghan citizens who are eligible for relocation to the UK under Arap may come with a partner, dependent children and additional family members who are deemed eligible by the Ministry of Defence and suitable for relocation by the Home Office.

The UK also operates a second programme called the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme for those who assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan and stood up for British values, including “democracy, women’s rights, freedom of speech and rule of law”, as well as “extremely vulnerable” people such as women and girls at risk and members of minority groups.

More than 25,000 Afghans have been brought to the UK under the Afghan Arap and ACRS schemes.

Updated: May 27, 2024, 11:00 AM