During the war in Afghanistan, a number of Afghan civilians served with British troops as interpreters. These brave men and women risked their lives to enable our Armed Forces to do their jobs.
It was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these Afghan heroes.
Many of them were no longer safe in Afghanistan, facing reprisals for their service to the UK.
So I was proud that, when the UK began withdrawing our forces in 2012, it was our own Paddy Ashdown who fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these Afghan heroes.
Back in 2013, he spoke powerfully about the “debt of honour” we owe them, and argued that they must be offered the chance to live in the UK.
Afghan translators put their lives at risk to help British troops. The least we can do is allow them the chance to build their lives in the UK.— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) August 7, 2020
It was our own Paddy Ashdown who back in 2013 fought to ensure that the Government didn’t forget the service of these brave people. 👇 pic.twitter.com/TECrCZgUyH
Thanks to Paddy’s campaign and the efforts of Liberal Democrat Ministers, we secured a scheme to allow interpreters to move to the UK.
However, they faced fierce resistance from Conservative Ministers, who set tight limits on who could benefit from the scheme.
Only those who were still working for the UK in December 2012 were eligible, and they could only bring family members with them if they moved at the same time – spouses and children could not join them later.
This left far too many interpreters stuck in Afghanistan and at serious risk of violence, or in the UK but separated from their families.
So we kept campaigning and, in 2018, the Government promised to expand the scheme to include all interpreters who have served on the frontline with British troops since May 2006.
It claimed that up to 200 more people would be able to benefit from the changes – but, two years later, just two translators have been able to come to the UK under the new rules.
Afghan translators put their lives at risk to help British troops. The least we can do is now allow these brave people the chance to build their lives in the UK.@Jamie4North has led a cross-party letter demanding we fulfil our debt to these brave translators 👇 pic.twitter.com/mSs5PN89A5— Liberal Democrats (@LibDems) August 4, 2020
The Government also promised in March last year that interpreters who have relocated to the UK would now be able to bring family members to join them.
Brave individuals in Afghanistan who put their lives at risk for our country deserve the right to stay in the UK.
Sadly, however, not a single family member had been relocated to the UK under the new rules more than a year after that change came into force.
These failures represent an appalling breach of the debt Paddy spoke of back in 2013.
These courageous interpreters must not be left to live in fear of reprisals for their service, nor must they be cruelly separated from their families.
So, along with my Liberal Democrat colleagues and a number of MPs from other parties, I have written to the Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary, urging them to put this right without further delay.
We are calling for a comprehensive relocation scheme that allows all those who served as interpreters for our Armed Forces in Afghanistan – and their families – to come to the UK if they choose.
Just as those who have faced coronavirus on the frontline deserve the right to stay in the UK, so too do the brave individuals in Afghanistan who put their lives at risk for our country.