Former UK military chiefs slam government's Afghan resettlement scheme to prevent 'interpretors being murdered'

Former UK military chiefs slam government's Afghan resettlement scheme to prevent 'interpretors being murdered'
Ex-military chiefs have penned an open letter urging the UK government to urgently review their Afghan resettlement scheme.
3 min read
28 July, 2021
Many Afghan interpreters are still in the country and fear persecution from the Taliban [Getty]

Ex-military chiefs urged the UK government to review the relocation scheme for Afghan citizens who worked with British forces in an open letter shared on Wednesday. 

More than 40 retired military officers signed the letter which stated that "too many applications are being rejected" and called for the policy to be "reviewed again immediately" as the Taliban resurges in the country and threatens the lives of Afghans who worked with NATO forces. 

Around 450 Afghans who worked with the British military in Afghanistan since the 2000 US-led invasion have been rejected from a scheme to provide them with refuge in the UK.

Approximately 130 interpreters' applications for refuge have been rejected for reasons such as dismissal from service or not being employed directly by the army, according to The Sulha Alliance a campaign group, which co-coordinated the open letter.  

"The policy is not being conducted with the necessary spirit of generosity required to protect our former colleagues from an indiscriminate and resurgent Taliban," the letter read.  

"We urge the government to act immediately. If any of our former interpreters are murdered by the Taliban in the wake of our withdrawal, the dishonour would lay squarely at our nation's feet."

These Afghan interpreters now fear recrimination from the Taliban due to their work with British forces and their stories have been widely reported in UK media. 

"The Taliban don’t care if I was dismissed or fired...All they care is that I worked for the British and anyone who worked for the British, they're gonna kill us," an ex-interpreter told the BBC. 

The letter also expressed concerns about "local employed staff" such as cooks "who provided essential support to the UK" but were rejected for not being in an "exposed role". 

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) was introduced last year by the UK government to help Afghans, who mostly worked as interpreters, find refuge in the UK following the withdrawal of foreign troops and growing threats from the Taliban. 

Those who meet the eligibility criteria for relocation are given the opportunity to apply to live in the UK for five years and can later request indefinite leave to remain. 

Some 3,000 Afghans were expected to settle in the UK through the scheme. 

However, The Sulha Alliance said the government only expects to relocate around 800 interpreters and their families, less than a third of what is needed, according to the BBC. 

An MoD spokesman said: "Every dismissal was for a valid reason. The ARAP scheme allows officials to review all cases of dismissal on a case-by-case basis and relocate them if there are no other concerns."

UK MP Johnny Mercer, a former British army officer who signed the letter, called the rejections an "abject moral failure" and stated that claims everyone was dismissed for valid reasons are "factually untrue".