Stranded Afghan interpreter launches legal action against UK

He served as the eyes and ears of British troops in Afghanistan during the war

British troops, who were supported by Afghan interpreters, board a Royal Air Force plane in Kabul. AFP
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An Afghan man who worked as an interpreter for UK troops has filed legal action against the Home Office after it rejected his application to relocate to Britain.

The 38-year-old was among the thousands who dashed to Kabul airport seeking refuge abroad when the Taliban swept back into power last month.

Amid the scramble he was shot by the insurgents, leaving him unable to make further attempts to board a flight.

With his chances of being offered a safe haven abroad hanging in the balance, he has gone into hiding, fearing for his safety and the lives of his family.

The former translator claims he was accepted on to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap) scheme by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) after working for both British and US forces between 2011 and 2016.

Rehana Popal, the specialist immigration barrister working on the case, said the man began working for the international forces in October 2009 in Afghanistan, but was placed on the US’s watch list a few years later after disclosing that extended family members were in the Taliban.

In 2011, he took and passed polygraph lie detector test, which led to his name being removed from the watch list and opened the door for him to work with British soldiers.

A year later he moved back to work for US forces, until 2016.

Ms Popal said the interpreter was accepted on to the UK government’s Arap scheme in May after being approved by the ministry, but was rejected by the Home Office two months later.

In a letter to the man, the department said his “presence in the UK has been assessed as not conducive to the public good on grounds of national security due to [his] conduct, character and associations”.

It added: “I am therefore satisfied that your presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good.”

Two weeks ago, days before Britain’s deadline to withdraw troops, former interpreters and vulnerable Afghans from Kabul, the High Court urged the government to disclose why the decision to allow him on to the scheme was reversed or give a greater explanation for why the man is considered a danger.

The unnamed interpreter was among thousands of Afghans who descended on Kabul airport in August hoping to board a flight out of the country after the Taliban took control. AP

Ms Popal said the government was unable to provide even a “gist” of the reason for refusal. It has instructed Sir James Eadie QC, who previously represented the government in its case involving Shamima Begum.

Ms Begum was one of three schoolgirls from east London who travelled to Syria to join the so-called Islamic State terror group in February 2015.

She added that the government has requested that the hearing, due to take place at the High Court later this month, take place under closed proceedings.

Ms Popal said: “There are about a dozen of these individuals who are in the same position and there is a serious question of injustice here.

“While I accept the Home Office will have to ensure they uphold national security, it’s hard for individuals who fought alongside British soldiers on the front line and have put their lives on the line.

“Having been accepted by the MoD it is then absurd they are rejected by the Home Office without any reason.

“It’s the lack of reason that raises serious concerns, because it’s saying ‘You and your dependents are so dangerous, and because of what you’ve done, or not done, we’re not telling you what, none of you deserve protection’."

Ms Popal added that if the man’s case is successful it will give hope for other Afghan interpreters.

A spokesman for the government said: “The UK’s evacuation operation helped over 15,000 people to safety including British nationals, Afghan interpreters, and other vulnerable people, and the government is working as quickly as possible to bring more people to the UK.

“But there are people in Afghanistan who represent a serious threat to our national and public security. That is why thorough checks are taking place by government, our world-class intelligence agencies and others and if someone is assessed as presenting as a risk to our country, we will take action.”

Updated: November 22, 2021, 6:18 AM