Afghan interpreters left to face wrath of Taliban after Home Office rules them ‘danger’ to UK security

Years of service with British army rewarded with a letter refusing entry into UK following western withdrawal

Colin Drury
Sunday 29 August 2021 00:00
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Armed Forces leave Kabul on one of UK’s final flights out of Afghanistan

Dozens of Afghan interpreters who worked for the British Army have been told they will not be allowed into the UK because they are a “danger to [national] security,” The Independent can reveal.

The men had been cleared for relocation here by the Ministry of Defence following years of service.

But as the Taliban began to capture large swathes of the country last month, they and their families received letters from the Home Office telling them they would not be allowed into the UK on the grounds they posed a risk.

No further explanation was given or right of appeal offered – leaving them trapped and fearing reprisals for their time helping western interests.

Now, lawyers representing one of the interpreters have taken the Home Office to court to demand it either reverse the decision or give a greater explanation for why the man is suddenly considered a danger.

In a special hearing at the High Court on Friday night, a judge ordered the government to provide those further details within 24 hours – something it is yet to do.

“These men were there for the British Army in Afghanistan,” said Rehana Popal, the specialist immigration barrister working on the case. “They did tours with the soldiers, helped them connect with local communities, did vital work.

“Now we are not only turning our back on them, we are saying, ‘actually you’re a threat to us’? It is horrible. How on earth is it possible the MOD can accept you and then at the 11th hour – at the most dangerous hour – the Home Office can come along and say no? It is deplorable. It does not make sense.”

The man she is representing at the High Court is likely to become a benchmark for all other interpreters in the same situation. If his case can be successfully appealed it will give succour for other refusals to be challenged.

Although The Independent is not naming him at his request, he is currently hiding in a village close to Kabul with his wife and six children, who are all 13 and under.

Speaking from there, he revealed that armed Taliban fighters were patrolling the area and had threatened to kill him. Just last week, he was shot at as he made his way to Kabul Airport in an attempt to plead his case there. The bullet grazed the 38-year-old’s neck.

He said: “This is the time for the British army to help me because I helped them.”

And he added: “The village is very dangerous. The Taliban is here and armed so…this is difficult for me. I just want the British government to help me. There is no reason why they reject my case…My kids – they are kids. The situation for them is very bad…Everyone here knows I was an interpreter for the British army, for the US army.”

The man worked for British forces between 2011 and 2012. That time was sandwiched in between almost a decade working with the US from 2007-11 and then again from 2012-16.

Although he has distant family who are known to be members of the Taliban, he says both the American army and the MOD were made aware of these links before he started working for them more than a decade ago.

His own application to move to the UK was first made as part of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy scheme in May 2021 when it became clear that US forces would be leaving the country. That was approved by the MOD the same month – but then overruled by the Home Office in a letter on 30 July.

The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases but said that since the start of the current evacuation on 15 August, more than 10,000 people had been airlifted from the country.

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