We are starting a campaign to offer asylum to Afghani interpreters to British soldiers


2:38 pm - May 7th 2013

by Sunny Hundal    


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About six years ago, bloggers from across the political spectrum banded together for a campaign to offer asylum to Iraqi interpreters to British armed forces. It was a long and bumpy campaign, and we didn’t get all that we wanted at the time, but it helped to get more Iraqi interpreters into the UK than if we had done nothing.

Now it’s time to revisit the issue, for interpreters who have helped British armed forces in Afghanistan.

The reasons this is the right thing to do are straightforward:

1) These interpreters have helped save the lives of British soldiers in Afghanistan.

2) They put their lives at risk, from extremist elements, to help British forces.

3) If we abandon them, it hurts British peace-keeping missions in the future. Locals will be less willing to help British armed forces in the future if they think they will be abandoned at a later date.

Whether you were for or against the war in Afghanistan, helping Afghani interpreters and their families is the morally righteous course of action. This says nothing about whether Afghanistan was right or wrong – only that these people need help, and should be offered asylum in the UK for their services.

* * * * * *

The campaign also has wide-spread public support. A Sunday Times opinion poll found that most Britons agree we should offer asylum to Afghan interpreters who worked for British troops. Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem voters all support the call for protection for the interpreters – while UKIP voters were narrowly against it.

There is an email petition by Avaaz.org and I fully support that, though I think there should be a off-line campaign focused on lobbying MPs too.

The Times is once again campaigning strongly on this issue, and I hope other newspapers will follow suit.

* * * * * *

It would help if bloggers wrote about this issue too, or highlight related stories in the press on Twitter, to keep up the momentum.

Support from Lib Dem and Tory bloggers & figures would be really helpful – this has to be a cross-party campaign.

What I’m looking for right now are offers of support and help, and ideas on how to take this forward. The first step is likely to be a meeting in a pub somewhere (in London, sorry) to discuss how to take the campaign forward and who can help in what way.

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Story Filed Under: Blog ,Foreign affairs ,South Asia

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Reader comments


1. Red Harry

Why can’t Afghanistan protect such a small group of people? How unpopular are they with their own people – and why?

As for, “Locals will be less willing to help British armed forces in the future…”. Wouldn’t that be a good thing?

2. paul canning

I hate to be pedantic but what you’re campaigning for is refuge, not asylum. The Afghans already have a right to claim asylum and would likely get it, depending on the nature of any threat to them and their inability to safely relocate.

I wrote about this distinction – which is important in the same way that not calling asylum seekers ‘illegal immigrants’ is – in a post about the media’s misunderstandings surrounding the alleged Boston bombers here http://paulocanning.blogspot.co.uk/2013/04/breaking-asylum-seekers-not-immigrants.html

Well done Sunny.

Red Harry – charming.

4. Charlieman

@2. paul canning: “I hate to be pedantic but what you’re campaigning for is refuge, not asylum. The Afghans already have a right to claim asylum…”

You may be correct on the point about “refuge”.

Whilst many Afghans may have a right to claim asylum, the only practical way to achieve that is to be smuggled into the UK illegally in order to stand on UK territory. That is why it is essential to permit such Afghan refugees to get on a plane without any special documentation (normally, no visa == no flight) to safety.

Time is important.

Before going all Lumleyesque and teary-eyed over the fate of those unfortunate Afghans who, in actively ‘collaborating’ with what are quite widely perceived both there and here as illegitimate intruders, and who may (or may not) have placed themselves in danger of retribution, might it not be wise to first establish the answers to a few important questions?

The first relates to the terms under which these individuals were engaged. Was there any form of coercion involved, or did the individuals concerned take on these assignments voluntarily after performing proper due diligence with respect to the likely risks (and rewards)? Were any commitments made or sought with respect to their ‘extraction’ should things turn nasty later? Were expectations created concerning such an outcome? If so, by whom? And finally, how many are we talking about here?

6. Charlieman

@5. Dan Dare: “And finally, how many are we talking about here?”

Great question.

Enough to humiliate and embarrass people like you.


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