Afghan interpreters who helped British forces in home country launch legal challenge against government decision not to allow them to settle in the UK


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The Independent Online

Afghan interpreters who have aided British forces in their country have issued a plea to the UK Government to grant them asylum to save them from the “danger” of Taliban vengeance attacks.

More than 77,000 people have signed a petition delivered to the Government today calling for Britain to offer an estimated 600 interpreters refuge rather than the current offer of monetary support.

Among those delivering the document was Mohammed, 28, who began serving the British in 2006 and is one of six interpreters to be granted refugee status in the UK. The petition was started by his brother, Abdul, who remains in Afghanistan with Mohammed’s wife, three children and the rest of his family. They have been in hiding in Kabul for one and a half years.

This week, Prime Minister David Cameron proposed cash packages to encourage Afghans to stay and help rebuild their country after UK troops withdraw.

“That money cannot change our security problems,” said Abdul. “We do not need the money. We are in danger, we need security.”

Mohammed said: “Will David Cameron risk his family’s life for ‘x’ amount of pounds?”

The petition was delivered to the Foreign Commonwealth Office by Mohammed and two ex-soldiers, Patrick Hennessy and Jake Woo, as Afghan translators launched a legal case against the British government.

To date, 26 Afghan interpreters have been killed while working for British forces. The Taliban have given a death sentence to all those who helped Nato forces, and a survey carried out by campaign group Avaaz estimates that 93 per cent of UK translators have received threats.

Mohammed said: “I wanted to help my country. I wanted to help the British forces because they were there to help our people.”

But Abdul added: “When they leave us, we are the first target for these people. So I don’t know why they will not recognise our service or the sacrifices we have made.”

Abdul and his family have received numerous threats through letters and phone calls. He said somebody called his father on 19 March asking: “Do you like infidels or Mujahideen?” The month before, there had been another phone call. “They told me we have found the place where you live and as soon as possible we will catch you and we will kill you,” Abdul said. “Anything can happen at any time”.

The brothers had worked under the guise of UN clerks, but when Mohammed was hit by an IED in 2009, they had to return home and tell their family the truth. Abdul said it was then the problems began. “The whole of our family is scared now.”  His father sells cars, but since the threats started, barely makes it to the showroom. “Most of the time he is at home,” he said.

Alex Ford, who left the British forces in December last year after working in a construction role with local civilians, said: “In order to do anything out there, I had to have an interpreter there all the time. They were vital to me and doing my job. They became people that not only were relied upon but were totally essential to us.

“I think the way that they’re being treated at the moment is disingenuous to them for the effort and the sacrifice that they’ve given.

“There are some things that you have to accept you just have to pay for. We have used these people for our job out there and then as we are pulling out, we are leaving them to essentially fend for themselves in a country where it’s not going to be great.”

Britain is the only Nato country not to offer asylum to their Afghan interpreters. All Iraqi interpreters were offered the option to settle in the UK after troops left. 

Lord Paddy Ashdown, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Baroness Coussins have all expressed their support for asylum to be granted.

Mohammed said: “The campaign is not because he is my brother, it’s because people like Abdul are in danger and need my help.”