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Harry’s wounded hero marine: Don’t deport Afghan pilot who fought with UK forces to Rwanda

Commando who lost two limbs in Afghan war says: he helped us, we must help him settle here

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 20 April 2023 14:52 BST
Royal Marine hero Ben McBean speaks about Prince Harry

A former marine commando hailed a hero by Prince Harry has backed our campaign to grant asylum to an Afghan war pilot facing deportation to Rwanda.

Ben McBean, who became a double amputee after being critically injured on a 2008 tour in Afghanistan, said he couldn’t see why “anyone would have an issue” with Afghan veterans being given a new home in Britain.

The Independent wants the government to allow the pilot – who arrived on a small boat after he was unable to find a safe legal route – to remain in the UK. He has been threatened with removal to Rwanda and is desperate that his young family are brought to safety from the Taliban.

The Independent has launched a petition calling for the UK to support Afghan war heroes who served alongside Britain

The former head of the army, General Lord Richard Dannatt, First Sea Lord Admiral West, and former head of Nato Lord Robertson are among those who have backed the campaign.

Marine McBean, who was described as a “hero” by Prince Harry after they shared a flight home from Afghanistan, told The Independent: “It is hard to take any positives from Britain’s time in Afghanistan.”

“We were trying to help and there were some good stories, but the reality is we are just back to square one – in fact, the situation in Afghanistan may be even worse”, he continued.

“It is sad to say but I can’t take any positives from it. What would be a positive is if someone who helped us was able to settle here and live a normal life.”

Prince Harry with Ben McBean (SWNS)

Speaking about the Afghan veterans, he said: “It was the Taliban versus the other side. They weren’t trying to kill me more than an Afghan who was on our side. They were just trying to kill anyone who was against them.

“That’s why they get the same respect, the same credit. This is why when Harry came over to Afghanistan everyone respected him more. Because he was putting himself in the same line of fire as everyone else.

“Anyone who went against them [the Taliban], who was on our side, everyone respected them – Afghan national army, Afghan national police, Afghan air force. Some of the elders that we used to speak to who were fighting for their land, everyone respected them.

Marine McBean, who was badly injured during a desert patrol, was described by Prince Harry as a ‘real hero’ after they shared a flight home from the warzone in Afghanistan (Getty)

“And if you said, would you mind if they came here to get a new life now because they’re in danger over there? I don’t see why anyone would have an issue with that.”

He said the current politics around small boats meant that it was the “worst time” for Afghans who had been promised help to try to get support from the UK.

Marine McBean meets Prince Harry after his tour of Afghanistan (PA)

Referring to those resorting to illegal routes to get to the UK, he said: “Because of the way that we just left, people have been left behind, forgotten about, they are in hiding, so it is almost impossible for them to get here safely. It doesn’t surprise me what’s happened, unfortunately.”

The Afghan pilot, who was praised by his coalition forces supervisor as a “patriot to his nation”, says he was forced into hiding when the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021. He told The Independent that he had no choice but to travel to the UK via a small boat because there were no viable safe routes.

The Afghan pilot has been threatened with deportation to Rwanda (The Independent )

He said: “What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan? You entered Afghanistan on the first day as a friendly and brotherly country, and now this bad day has come upon us. [The UK government should] keep the promise of friendship and cooperation that you made, and fulfil it.

“The American and British forces have forgotten us. We worked with them and we helped them like they were our brothers. We are not Talib, we are not Isis, so why are they leaving us like this?”

Piers Morgan became the latest supporter to back our campaign, saying deportation would be a “complete failure of moral duty”.

“This man is a hero who helped us take on the Taliban, his family is in Afghanistan, we have a moral compulsion as a country to save this man and take care of his family,” Mr Morgan said on his TalkTV show on Wednesday night, while also encouraging Prince Harry, who also fought against the Taliban, to do whatever he can to support the campaign.

He later directly appealed to Rishi Sunak to help the pilot. Sharing a clip from his TalkTV show, Mr Morgan said the case was a scandal that “shamed Britain”, before urging the prime minister: “Do the right thing and give this hero a new life here, then bring his family over too. It’s the very least we can do after all he did for us.”

Former international development secretary Rory Stewart said that the pilot’s story was “profoundly shocking” because it went against the promises made to those in Afghanistan. He said the UK was “shirking our responsibilities towards Afghans who risked their lives to fight alongside us”.

General Sir Richard Barrons, a former chief of joint operations who served in Afghanistan, said the fact that the pilot went through other countries to get to the UK was “not surprising considering the mess the government made with the evacuation process”.

Colonel Simon Diggins, who served as a defence attache in Afghanistan, said: “It is appalling that this man who was in our allied forces is being treated in this way.”

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