High Court denies Afghan interpreter permission to enter UK after he 'put lives at risk'

While working for the US, he had released sensitive information and threatened to kill coalition forces

Afghans crowd Kabul Airport during the evacuation following the Taliban takeover in 2021. AFP
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A former Afghan interpreter who worked for British and US forces had his application to enter the UK rejected after it was revealed he previously threatened to kill coalition forces.

The man, who was referred to as FMA and cannot be named after legal reasons, had gone to London's High Court in an attempt to overturn a decision by the UK Home Office to refuse him entry with his wife and children under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy.

Despite previously winning a judicial review of his case after the Home Office claimed he posed a risk to national security, the court has now backed the original decision and rejected his claim.

The news came as the Home Office took the unusual step of releasing further details to the court over its decision to label him a risk to the public.

The court heard he had released sensitive information while working for the US in Afghanistan and when challenged had threatened to kill coalition troops.

Mr Justice Swift said his actions had put the lives of British troops at risk.

“Although it is a single event from 10 years ago, the release of sensitive information is serious and reflects badly on [FMA's] character,” he said.

“Irrespective of the intended recipients, releasing the information is negligent and reckless as it risks the information reaching hostile actors. Given that the information was “sensitive”, this has the potential for wide-ranging consequences.

“Due to his work for US Forces, [FMA] could have been exposed to information sensitive to coalition forces, including the United Kingdom. Therefore, releasing sensitive information has the potential to negatively impact not only the US and their personnel, but also the UK, and British and coalition forces more generally.

“There is also the possibility [FMA's] actions undermined the coalition force's mission in Afghanistan, which the UK were in agreement with. Therefore, while [FMA] may have released information when employed by the US and not British forces, this activity could also have impacted upon the UK and its interests.

“The threat to kill indicates a confrontational, aggressive and reactive attitude which unnecessarily escalated the situation. The fact that [FMA] exacerbated his behaviour through threats to kill reinforces the seriousness of his conduct.

“It demonstrates that when challenged he chose to react negatively and aggressively, which raises questions about how he will react if he were challenged by the UK authorities or members of the public. Therefore, [FMA's] conduct which has demonstrated a willingness to respond with aggression when confronted, has indicated that if he were permitted entry to the UK, his presence could pose a potential threat to the UK public.”

On hearing the news, the man “broke down in tears” his lawyer Qays Sidiqi told The National.

“He’s been in hiding since the Taliban offensive occurred and he’s in a very bad situation with his family. He’s on a hit list so has to stay in hiding and has to move about because he’s paranoid the neighbours will spy on him and inform the Taliban,” he said.

“Family members are bringing basic necessities so that he can survive with his family. He doesn’t go outside. It’s not a situation he can sustain for much longer.

“He’s got two children as well and they’ve been in hiding for two years so you can imagine what it’s like. His mental health is really deteriorating. It’s all taken a toll on him.”

His situation has taken an “emotional toll” on his children “who can’t go to school”.

It is the third high court challenge by the interpreter and arose after the Home Office rejected his claim in August 2021.

“You have sought entry clearance to the United Kingdom as a relevant Afghan citizen, however your presence in the UK has been assessed as not conducive to the public good on grounds of national security due to your conduct, character and associations,” a letter from the Home Secretary said.

“I am therefore satisfied that your presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good. I therefore refuse you entry clearance to the UK.”

The interpreter told the court his life was in danger due to his work with British forces and provided a letter of recommendation from a retired US army sergeant and two statements from fellow interpreters now in the UK.

But the judge ruled the referees may not have known about the fact that he had released sensitive information and “threatened to kill” when discovered.

“There is the possibility that they do not know about this information. Consequently, these positive representations cannot negate or sufficiently counterbalance the information against him,” the judge added.

“Neither can the praise that he received from his work for British and American forces, which does not negate the risk posed by the derogatory behaviour outlined in the information.

“For the reasons outlined above, I therefore assess that [FMA's] presence in the UK would not be conducive to the public good due to his character and conduct. Therefore, I recommend that [FMA's] visa application should be refused on national security grounds due to the threat he would pose if he were to be granted entry to the UK, and that his dependent wife and children's applications should be refused accordingly.”

Mr Sidiqi said the man is at a loss to understand why he is a security risk.

“He’s thought of every scenario he could think of but can’t figure it out. The fact of the matter is we don’t even know what basis they’re refusing him,” he said.

“They’re saying it’s national security but they can’t disclose the information because it’s sensitive.

“On the one hand he’s upset but on the other he has no closure because he doesn’t know why he’s being refused so he feels like he’s in limbo at the moment.”

“At the time when he feels he needs the assistance of the British he feels let down.

“He worked for the British cause but this is the treatment that he’s been receiving and it’s unfair. He believes that it has been one of his biggest regrets.

“He thought if he was hold their hands then they would hold his hand but they’re just letting him drown. He broke down in tears he was just to hopeful they would make the right decision.”

Mr Sidiqi said his client cannot apply for a visa to move to the US while the UK maintains he’s a threat to national security.

“From the American side of things there are no issues whatsoever. He’s got a clean record and there’s letters of recommendation supporting him so it’s literally just the British,” he said.

Updated: June 28, 2023, 11:39 AM