BETRAYAL OF THE BRAVE Victory for the Mail on Afghan translator visas
AFGHAN interpreters who served alongside British troops will no longer have to pay large fees to continue living in the UK, in a victory for the Daily Mail.
Around 1,100 Afghans – mostly translators and their families – faced being kicked out of Britain from next year as their five-year visas were due to expire and they could not afford £2,400 to apply for indefinite leave to remain.
But last night new Home Secretary Sajid Javid said the loyal interpreters, all of whom served for more than a year on the frontline in Helmand Province, and their families could stay without paying.
Writing for the Mail in his first newspaper article since being promoted to Home Secretary on Monday, he said: ‘It is only right that we honour their service and ensure they are able to continue with the lives that they have built here.’
In another breakthrough, Mr Javid said he would review whether their wives and children should be allowed in.
Many of them had complained they had not been able to bring relatives across at the same time for practical reasons, only to be told it was now too late.
Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson also vowed to fight for the ‘ courageous’ translators. ‘The Afghan interpreters have served this country with great loyalty and bravery by serving shoulder-to-shoulder with our Armed Forces,’ he said.
‘I am also really pleased the Home Office have supported me in making sure Britain delivers for these courageous interpreters who have always delivered for us.’ The Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign, launched in 2015, has highlighted countless scandals in which Afghan interpreters have been abandoned.
The ministers’ pledges raised hopes for other interpreters who have not been allowed into Britain because they were not serving on an arbitrary date in 2012. Yesterday it was revealed that several hundred Afghan interpreters who were allowed into the UK under a relocation scheme feared they would be booted out from next year.
They were given sanctuary after risking their lives for UK troops, but said they had been ‘left in limbo’ because of rules forcing them to pay £2,389 to apply to stay in Britain indefinitely. The rules, which also apply to migrants who illegally crossed the Channel to enter the UK, left the interpreters with the prospect of having to return to the war-ravaged nation and be hunted by the Taliban.
Mohammad Hares, who served with UK troops for five years and leads the Sulha Network representing the interpreters, welcomed Mr Javid’s pledge to waive the fees. ‘This a big achievement and it’s security for us,’ he said. ‘The fear that I and others could be sent back to Afghanistan is gone. The morale will lift because of this, as will our trust in the system.’
The interpreters wrote to both ministers earlier this week urging them to overturn the ‘shameful’ policy. The Defence Secretary then urged the Home Office to waive the fees. Lord Dannatt, a former head of the Army, joined the calls, saying: ‘These people are vital to us and it is vital we treat them properly.’
The UK’s current relocation policy excludes hundreds of interpreters who worked with British troops during some of the worst fighting in Helmand in the years before and after 2012.