UK visas for Afghan interpreters facing Taliban threat

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More than 1,000 Afghan interpreters have won a battle to be granted UK visas. The UK Defence Secretary has announced that a total of 1,010 interpreters out of 2,850 who served British forces will have their UK visa applications fast-tracked. The move comes after they had their contracts terminated between 2001 and 2014, without the right to appeal the decision.


Many argued that they had been wrongly dismissed, leaving their lives at risk from the Taliban. Now, for the first time, at least 30 interpreters who were not directly employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) have been informed that they will be awarded sanctuary in the UK. The qualifying criteria for relocation to Britain was recently widened. 

Under plans to accelerate the relocation of Afghan interpreters facing Taliban threats, more than 3,000 Afghans – including their family members – are expected to arrive in Britain in the coming weeks, alongside more than 1,300 who have already relocated to the UK.


Only right

Defence Secretary, Ben Wallace, said it was “only right” for UK visas for Afghan interpreters and their families to be accelerated. He said: “Those being relocated are those that might otherwise be at risk of reprisals from the Taliban.”

The issue of interpreters who helped British forces being targeted by the Taliban has been a major problem since UK military personnel ceased combat operations in the Helmand province of Afghanistan in 2014.

British troops who served in the region have been the most vocal about supporting measures to protect those who helped them during their deployment. 

Earlier UK immigration programs designed to provide a pathway for Afghan interpreters to relocate to Britain applied stringent criteria on who could apply. Length of service and the precise nature of roles were both factors that determined who was eligible.


Priority relocation

However, under the new government policy, any current or former locally employed staff who are assessed and deemed to be under serious threat from the Taliban will be offered a fast-track UK visa application service – regardless of their employment status, rank, role or length of service.

According to the UK government this has been done to ‘reflect the fact that the security situation in Afghanistan has changed’. The government also acknowledged that the potential risk to local staff who have worked for them and British troops over the past 20 years is also apparent.

The fast-track UK visa scheme, known as the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy, was reportedly set up on 1 April. Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said that setting up the program was ‘a moral obligation’.

An official government statement said: “Following the decision to begin the withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan, the Prime Minister has agreed with the Ministry of Defence, Home Office and Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to rapidly accelerate applications through the policy.”


Not all are eligible

While the latest scheme is broader than previous programs, the government did stress that not everyone who worked for Britain will be eligible. For example, many locally hired Afghans were sacked while working for the UK government or armed forces for serious misconduct.

However, the Defence Secretary said: “With Western powers leaving Afghanistan, the threat is increasing, including targeted attacks by the Taliban.”

The US also recently announced that it would be withdrawing troops from Afghanistan, sparking fears of Taliban reprisals against those who helped the West in the so-called ‘war on terror’.

Mr Wallace added: “Those who worked for the British have sacrificed a lot to look after us and now is the time for us to do the same.”

Priti Patel said: “It’s our moral obligation to recognise the risks they faced in the fight against terrorism and reward their efforts. I’m pleased that we are meeting this fully, by providing them and their families the opportunity to build a new life in this country.” can help with Sponsor Licences

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