Dozens of Afghan interpreters hit by Ministry of Defence data breach

The MoD has apologised in a statement

Ashley Cowburn
Tuesday 21 September 2021 11:05
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Afghan interpreters: Many denied access to evacuation flights

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace has ordered an investigation into a data breach involving dozens of Afghan interpreters who worked for British forces.

More than 250 former workers seeking evacuation to the UK were mistakenly copied into an email from the Ministry of Defence asking for an update on their situation, the BBC reported.

John Healey MP, Labour’s Shadow Defence Secretary, said: “We told these Afghans interpreters we would keep them safe, instead this breach has needlessly put lives at risk.

“This is the second major data breach from the MoD this year, after sensitive documents were discovered at a bus stop in Kent in June. Clearly, the defence secretary needs to get his house in order.”

A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “An investigation has been launched into a data breach of information from the Afghan Relocations Assistance Policy team.

“We apologise to everyone impacted by this breach and are working hard to ensure it does not happen again.

The Independent has launched a petition urging the UK government to be more ambitious in its plans to take in Afghan refugees. To sign the petition click here

“The Ministry of Defence takes its information and data handling responsibilities very seriously.”

One of the affected interpreters told the BBC that some others failed to spot the mistake and replied to the entire list with further personal details.

The email was sent by the team in charge of the UK’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP), which has been dealing with claims of refuge since the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan in August.

Conservative MP Johnny Mercer said the treatment of Afghan interpreters had been “deeply shameful”.

“In July, myself along with many others in defence asked the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary to sort out the Arap programme,” he said.

“They wrote a churlish letter back saying we were reacting to ‘significant misreporting’ and our concerns were ‘simply not true’.

“I told them they would regret their childish approach to a genuine effort to protect those who had served in harms way on behalf of our nation.

“Their hubris will cost lives; this latest episode will only accelerate that. Deeply shameful.”


The Independent has launched a petition which has so far gathered nearly 15,000 signatures urging the UK government to be more ambitious in its plans to take in Afghan refugees. It comes after the Taliban seized power ahead of withdrawal of western troops in August. We are keen to gather more signatures and this is your chance to have your voice heard by adding yours. We thank you for your support. To sign the petition click here

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