Afghan war heroes deserve better than to be turned away at the door

As a former serviceman myself I can tell you, these guys are tough. But it doesn’t matter how tough you are when elected officials in one of the world’s leading countries abandon you to your fate

Bear Grylls
Sunday 02 April 2023 13:04 BST
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Shadow defence secretary references The Independent’s investigation on Afghan refugees

It’s difficult to imagine just how extreme the conditions can be for refugees who travel to the UK in search of a better life.

While much of my life has been spent showing people how to survive dangerous environments, my number one piece of advice would always be: avoid those situations in the first place if you possibly can. In the midst of the UK’s often heated debates surrounding immigration, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that so many people don’t have that luxury of avoiding a catastrophe; nobody is travelling across the ocean on a rickety dinghy – risking disease, dehydration and drowning – when there’s a safe alternative waiting for them at home.

What is a tragedy is when vulnerable brave genuine people take such a big risk, exposing themselves to life-and-death circumstances only to then find themselves immediately turned away from what is supposed to be a welcoming and progressive country. This is never more so than when we are talking about our ally veterans.

That’s why I’m supporting The Independent’s petition calling for the UK government to support Afghan war heroes who served alongside British forces.

Imagine braving the horrors of war to support the forces of a country that you don’t even live in, only to find that when you travel to that country for genuine sanctuary from horror, torture and the many other dangers of your own country (braving even more hardships along the way), you’re told that you aren’t acknowledged or wanted.

That’s exactly what happened to an Afghan air force lieutenant, who flew 30 combat missions against the Taliban to help end their scourge of terror. He was praised by his coalition forces supervisor as a “patriot to his nation”, and when he was forced into hiding in his own country, he found that it was “impossible” to make his way to Britain via a safe route.

Men like him put their lives on the line to help protect people like you and me. They deserve better than to be told that they aren’t welcome in a country where they’ve performed an invaluable and brave service.

As a former serviceman myself I can tell you, these guys are tough. But it doesn’t matter how tough you are when elected officials in one of the world’s leading countries abandon you to your fate just so they can score a few cheap political points in the run up to an election.

Not only do they deserve better; we stand united against any government that will happily abandon the brave ally soldiers who have served this country just because their passport isn’t the right colour.

So please, join me in supporting The Independent’s petition, and in urging our government to do right by those who have given so much to keep us safe from the real dangers of the world.

Bear Grylls is a British adventurer, writer and television presenter. In 2009 he became the youngest-ever chief scout of the United Kingdom and Overseas Territories

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