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Afghan interpreters still threatened with deportation despite government suggesting they could stay

‘It’s great news for them, but it doesn’t apply to me. I'm being treated like a criminal,’ says Mr Husseinkhel, who served in the British army for two years but has been denied asylum

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Saturday 05 May 2018 19:50 BST
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Hafizzulah Husseinkhel is currently in limbo waiting for the Home Office to confirm whether he can stay
Hafizzulah Husseinkhel is currently in limbo waiting for the Home Office to confirm whether he can stay

Afghan interpreters who served for the British army are still threatened with deportation despite a suggestion by the government that they could remain in the UK.

Home secretary Sajid Javid announced that Afghan interpreters who worked with British troops fighting the Taliban would be allowed to stay in the UK for free following outrage over fees to apply for indefinite right to remain.

But the policy will only apply to those who arrived in the UK on a specific five-year visa scheme in 2012, which not all interpreters were eligible for.

Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, who was issued a deportation notice in December but had his removal halted by the High Court after The Independent highlighted his plight, is currently still in limbo waiting for the Home Office to confirm whether he can stay.

The 27-year-old, who served on the front line for the British army between 2010 and 2012, fled Afghanistan in 2014 after receiving death threats from the Taliban, and arrived in the UK a year later. His father was shot in the leg when he refused to reveal his whereabouts.

But he was not eligible for a resettlement package offered by the Ministry of Defence because it was available only to staff who were in post on 19 December last year – shortly after Mr Husseinkhel left the post.

He is among a number of Afghan interpreters who subsequently made their own way to the UK, but have had their asylum claims refused by the Home Office.

Speaking to The Independent following Mr Javid’s announcement, Mr Husseinkhel said: “It’s great news for some interpreters, but it doesn’t apply to me.

“I don’t know the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It feels like I don’t belong anywhere. It’s mental torture. I feel mentally detained. I have to report all the time, every month. I’m not able to work.

“The British army have helped me a lot, but the Home Office ignores what I’ve done for this country, the fact that I’ve served alongside the British troops on the front line. I’m being treated like a criminal here.”

Mr Husseinkhel was placed in an immigration detention centre the day he arrived in the UK, and has spent a total of more than two months detained since his arrival. He said his life would be at risk if he were to return to Afghanistan.

“I’d be afraid for my life. That’s why I left my country. They see me as a traitor, a spy. No one would accept me. It feels like I have no right to be anywhere,” he said.

Members of the army expressed outrage over his removal threat last year, praising him for making an “outstanding contribution” for the force and “risking his life” on the front line in and around Helmand Province.

Former troop leader William Locke, who served for five months in Afghanistan alongside Mr Husseinkhel, previously told The Independent: “The guy worked for us and put his life on the line for us for some years, and I think he deserves better treatment.

“It seems ridiculous that someone who’s done so much to help us and to save British lives isn’t allowed to settle in our country.”

Lewis Kett of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who has represented a number of Afghan interpreters who have been denied asylum in the UK, told The Independent that while the home secretary’s announcement was welcome, there were still “many battling in the UK to be recognised as refugees”.

“If the UK government is serious about protecting all those who put their lives on the line for British troops, it should be granting refuge to those still fighting their cases in the UK,” he added.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We recognise that local Afghan interpreters worked in dangerous and challenging situations and the UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those in need of protection.

“All claims are considered on their individual merits and Mr Husseinkhel’s case is currently being looked at as a priority.”

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