London: A plan to relocate hundreds of Afghan translators who worked for the British Government and military to the UK will be “accelerated” as foreign forces leave the country.
Officials fear people who worked for the UK could face reprisals from the Taliban once international troops have withdrawn from the region.
The UK has begun a “drawdown” of its troops in Afghanistan, where some remain as part of a NATO mission to train Afghan forces. The US and Australia have committed to withdrawing all their forces by September 11.
British PM Boris Johnson, then the foreign minister, greets British soldiers in Kabul, Afghanistan, 2018.Credit:AP
A government scheme to bring Afghan workers to Britain – the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy – was launched this year, and will be sped up.
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told the BBC it was “only right” to accelerate the program, or else those being relocated might “be at risk of reprisals” from the Taliban.
More than 1400 Afghans and their families have already relocated to the UK and hundreds more received funding for education and training.
Including the workers’ family members, some 3000 more Afghans could settle in the UK under the plan.
The issue has been in the spotlight since British forces ended combat operations in Helmand in 2014. Earlier schemes had involved strict criteria on who could apply to live in the UK, and considered factors such as length of service and precise roles.
But new government policy says any current or former locally employed staff assessed to be under serious threat to life will be offered priority relocation to Britain, regardless of their employment status, rank or role or length of time served, the BBC reported.
Campaigners warned that the criteria were still too narrow as they excluded people who were dismissed from their roles while working for the UK in the country.
Ed Aitken, a former Army officer and founder of the Sulha Alliance campaign group, said he was “pleased” about the scheme but warned that there was a “low” bar for rejecting those who previously risked their lives to support British troops.
Those sacked from their post, which amounted to 1010 of those employed, “around 35 per cent”, according to Aitken, will not be eligible for relocation except on a case-by-case basis.
The Ministry of Defence said the only people who would be automatically excluded are people who committed serious offences that would be a crime in the UK, or who are a security risk.
Last week, Australia announced the closure of its Kabul embassy and is facing calls to protect interpreters and other staff who have contributed to Australia’s military contribution in the country.
The Telegraph, London
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