UK ex-military chiefs demand relocation for Afghans who worked alongside British troops

Hundreds of Afghans who lost relocation applications are at risk of being killed by the Taliban

More than 40 former senior British military figures are campaigning for the relocation of Afghans who worked alongside the UK in its campaign against the Taliban.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, they said they were “gravely concerned” for hundreds of interpreters whose claims had been rejected.

“Too many of our former interpreters have unnecessarily and unreasonably been rejected … We strongly urge that the policy is reviewed again immediately, to ensure more are given sanctuary,” the letter read.

“If any of our former interpreters are murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the dishonour would lay squarely at our nation’s feet.”

More than 2,200 former Afghan staff and their families have been allowed to resettle in the UK, the Ministry of Defence said.

The signatories read like a who’s who of British military leadership. They include four former chiefs of the defence staff, two former heads of the British Army, a former national security adviser and former defence minister Johnny Mercer, who served as a soldier in Helmand.

“Only those constituting a national security threat should be excluded,” the generals said.

“We are also gravely concerned for Afghan staff who provided essential support to us but who are ineligible for relocation because they did not work in an ‘exposed role’ or were contracted through third parties. The Taliban make no such distinction.”

The generals urged the government to “be as generous and welcoming” as possible.

The programme has been expanded but activists at the Sulha Alliance, which is campaigning for the Afghans, said many interpreters would be rejected. They also said people not in “exposed roles” and those who were dismissed from service were not eligible.

Sulha Alliance said more than 500 people, including interpreters and drivers, had been rejected under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Programme in the past three months.

The group, which is co-ordinating the letter campaign, said the UK government expects to rehouse no more than 800 additional people under the Arap programme. That, it said, puts lives in danger.

“Time is of the utmost essence to save the lives of those who served alongside our servicemen and women in Afghanistan and who saved countless British lives,” the open letter said.

“It is clear there is insufficient capacity for Arap to cope with the scale and pace required.

“If any of our former interpreters are murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the dishonour would lay squarely at our nation’s feet. Arap is not providing the sanctuary that the British public have been led to believe is being granted to our former Afghan interpreters and colleagues.

“Too many of our former interpreters have unnecessarily and unreasonably been rejected from relocation to safety in the UK and we strongly urge that the policy is reviewed again immediately, to ensure more are given sanctuary.

“The current policy discriminates against the 35 per cent of staff dismissed from service for various reasons without any due process or ability to appeal their dismissal. We urge the Government to amend the policy so that all former interpreters are offered the chance to be resettled to the UK unless it is proven that they have committed such an offence that constitutes a threat to national security.”

Updated: July 28th 2021, 2:46 PM
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