The former head of the Army has warned that the UK will have “blood on our hands” if the Taliban kills an Afghan interpreter refused asylum in Britain.
Lord Dannatt told The Daily Telegraph that there was a “moral obligation” to help Afghans who had worked for the armed forces and, as a result, were owed a “debt of honour”.
Some 200 Afghan interpreters have not been granted asylum despite asking for help because of the risk from Taliban fighters.
Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt said the Government was helping them to “contribute positively to the future of their country”.
However Lord Dannatt spoke movingly about the need to help them despite the current concerns about immigration.
“We have a moral obligation to look after them. If they feel they are not able to live their previous life, they have earned the right to come and live in this country,” he said.
“I know that immigration is a real problem but the number we are talking about is so small that actually making a fuss about it is a real embarrassment. We have a debt of honour.
“If we are failing in our moral obligation and have a genuine concern that people are at threat, and that threat is carried out, then their blood is on our conscience and on our hands.
“The fear is that having been marked men or women who have worked with us they become targets for those who want to take revenge. We have a duty to stand by them.”
A scheme set up by the Government allowed Afghan staff to move to the UK, but it only applied to those who worked on the frontline in Helmand province for at least a year and who were working in December 2012. British troops first went to Afghanistan in 2001 and left in 2014.
Defence Minister Penny Mordaunt said: “Our policy towards interpreters enables our local employees to continue to contribute positively to the future of their country, rewards those who worked for us in the most challenging roles, and takes all reasonable steps to ensure that our former employees are safe from any danger caused by their employment with us.
“I have met many locally employed staff when visiting our forces. I have always been deeply impressed by their courage and their commitment to the future of Afghanistan.”