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Afghan interpreters who served with British army able to stay in UK for free, says Sajid Javid

More than 150 interpreters were granted sanctuary under a five-year visa set to expire next year

Chloe Farand
Friday 04 May 2018 10:49 BST
A US soldier walks with an Afghan interpreter before a mission
A US soldier walks with an Afghan interpreter before a mission (Reuters)

Afghan interpreters, who worked with British troops fighting the Taliban, will be allowed to stay in the UK for free, home secretary Sajid Javid has confirmed after it emerged they could face deportation.

More than 150 interpreters who served on the front line in Helmand Province were granted sanctuary in the UK in 2012 under a five-year visa set to expire next year.

But in a letter sent to the Home Office earlier this week they said they faced being sent back to Afghanistan unless they paid the £2,389 fee to apply for indefinite right to remain in the UK.

In one of hist first decisions following his appointment to replace Amber Rudd at the Home Office, Mr Javid said the fees will be waived to allow them to stay.

Writing in The Daily Mail, Mr Javid said "the commitment and bravery shown by our local interpreters was extraordinary" and that they had "put their lives at risk" for the country.

He said about 400 Afghan interpreters had taken the government's offer and relocated to the UK with their families.

"For almost five years they have been building their lives here, contributing to local communities, and we cannot allow those who have been through so much to have their lives disrupted again," he wrote.

Mr Javid said he would bring forward new immigration rules to ensure that the Afghan interpreters will have a route to permanent settlement.

"I am also waiving the fees so they don't have to pay for a penny for it," he said.

Mr Javid said most of the interpreters worked on the frontline but others carried out "equally vital" work for the Foreign Office and Department for International Development.

He added some interpreters living in the UK still had family members in Afghanistan and he promised to look at how to make the process easier for them to join their family in the UK.

Defence secretary Gavin Williamson had earlier called for the Home Office to waive the fees.

On Thursday, Home Office sources told The Independent the department was "considering" the measure.

Mr Williamson's comments came after the threatened deportation of Hafizzulah Husseinkhel, a 26-year-old Afghan interpreter who was sent to a detention centre last December.

He was eventually released after the Home Office failed to contest a bail application lodged by his barrister.

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