Afghan interpreters, who helped the British forces by removing barriers of communication, are now left with nowhere to go. Over 150 afghan translators were allowed to stay in the United Kingdom.
They risked their lives and helped British troops in the Helmand Province for over a year by making them understand what the Taliban were going to do next, but now their own lives are in danger.
The Home Office couldn’t tell the interpreters if they could stay in the country after their five-year visas expire. Moreover, these translators are required to pay an amount of £2,400 ($3263) to stay in the United Kingdom or face deportation.
Even after paying the fees, they will only be allowed to stay back in the country as asylum seekers.
The amount is unaffordable for many translators and if they are sent back to Afghanistan, they will most likely be killed in the war-ravaged country by the Taliban for spying at them. “We took great risk because we believed in the integrity of the British Army, only to be let down by politicians who see us a number and not as people. We implore you to end your shameful and indefensible policy,” said the translators in a letter written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson.
The Defense Secretary urged the Home Office to eradicate the fees charged by the interpreters and make the process simpler for them to stay back.
According to Mohammad Hares, chairman of the Sulha Network, which represents the interpreters, almost 20 interpreters have been in the UK since 2014 and their permits expire next year. When they called the Home office, they were told to reapply under normal immigration rules.
“If I can't afford the fees even if I can get a visa then I won't be able to apply and I will technically be illegal. Then I have two options either to go back to my country and risk our lives or find the money,” said Hares who previously served as an interpreter for Captain Ed Aitken, who served with the Royal Lancers during two tours of Afghanistan.
“The value our interpreters gave us in such an alien environment is difficult to overstate and the trust we put in them to work with us in often horrific conditions was extraordinary. It makes me feel ashamed that we have made life so difficult for them here. If the public knew quite how much we owed these guys they would be appalled at the way they have been treated,” said Captain Aitken.
Abdul Bari, a 26 year-old interpreter, who translated for U.K. forces between 2008 and 2010 was turned down for asylum. He believed he would get killed at the hands of Taliban if a threat to deport him from Britain was implemented. He entered the U.K. in 2015 after being smuggled across the Channel. Fast forward eight years and the Government is claiming that it would, in fact, be safer for him to return to the Afghan capital Kabul – which is not true or practical.
Following this disturbing policy that wants to send interpreters back to war-torn countries, over 178,000 people, including war heroes and politicians, have signed a petition, asking to allow loyal interpreters to be permitted into the U.K.
Thumbnail/Banner Image: Reuters, Kacper Pempel