UK rejects hundreds of former Afghan British Council staff for resettlement

Call for Britain to widen the pool of people eligible for relocation

Afghan interpreters who worked alongside the British Army say they are in fear of their lives as fighting escalates. Reuters / Didor Sadulloev
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Hundreds of Afghan staff who served with overseas cultural and language body the British Council have told of their fears of life under the Taliban after the UK rejected their applications for resettlement.

Former employees of its Afghanistan network say their requests for asylum were denied under the UK's Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy.

Interpreter Shir Mohammad Mirzaee is urging the UK to relocate him and says the scheme should be more inclusive.

"Terrorists don't ask about the type and length of our contracts," he said. "Relocate us to UK."

Muzhda Dawlatzada said British Council employees should not be discriminated against.

"We worked for the British Council's English for Afghans project as frontline soldiers in provinces," he said. "There shouldn't be any discrimination among employees."

Another former employee, Ali Afshar, said with lives at risk in Afghanistan, now is "the time for the UK to provide us safety and relocate us".

The Sulha Alliance, representing translators, is pushing for the British government to hear directly from interpreters before rejecting their applications.

"Officials deciding on Afghan interpreters' right to resettlement face incomplete files and a lack of clarity over reasons of dismissal," it said.

"Could we establish a process to allow Afghan interpreters to be heard before rejecting their cases?"

Last week it was revealed that interpreters were facing long waits for their applications to be processed.

The Times reported that one member of the unit at the embassy in Kabul said the “very small” team was dealing with “vast amounts” of applications involving complex issues.

The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy is being run in parallel with the military withdrawal to bring people who are judged to be at serious risk of reprisals to Britain.

It is open only to people in Afghanistan who worked as interpreters or in prosecuting Taliban members. The government says those in low-level support roles, such as cooks and cleaners, are not eligible.

Writing in The Telegraph, Johnny Mercer, the former minister for veterans, accused the British government of a "complete abandonment” of those “who crossed the threshold for a better Afghanistan”.

Britain's Foreign Office this week advised all UK citizens to leave Afghanistan because of the deteriorating security situation.

In a joint letter to Lord Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace last week said they had relocated more than 3,000 people under the programme and have pledged to conduct a review into those who were rejected.

They wrote in response to an open letter from 45 retired military officers and officials who said Britain’s relocation programme for at-risk civilians in Afghanistan was “not fit for purpose”.

Lord Dannatt and other senior military figures had voiced concerns that Afghan staff were being rejected for relocation due to security fears.

The government said it would examine all new applications and appeals in which new evidence is presented.

The National has requested a comment on the issue from the British Council.

Updated: August 10, 2021, 1:16 PM