After an outdated resettlement rule left many Afghan interpreters out, the UK has made a change that will welcome those who have provided vital services to the military over the past few decades.
Many Afghan interpreters who helped British troops in Afghanistan will now be able to relocate to the United Kingdom, following the government’s decision to expand the relocation scheme. Under the original scheme launched in 1993 until 2013, around 450 interpreters moved to the UK with their families.
However, the original plan only applied only to those who had worked with the British on the frontline for a year or more and were then made redundant. This meant hundreds of Afghan interpreters who had worked for British forces in Helmand before 2014 did not qualify for resettlement in the UK, leading to criticism from MPs and some former British military personnel.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel announced the expansion of the relocation scheme on a joint visit at Stanford Military Training Area in Norfolk, where they saw British troops prepare for a deployment to Kabul working alongside former Afghan interpreters who are now living in the UK. Wallace described the rule change as a “thank you” to the interpreters for their loyal service.
Under the rule change, approximately 100 more Afghan former interpreters will be eligible to apply to resettle under the new rules. In a statement, Patel said, “It’s right that we do right by them, the very people that have served alongside our forces in one of the most hostile and difficult places in the world.”
The Interpreters’ Lives Matter campaign group said it was “delighted” by the news, but warned that the scheme is still “leaving a large number of [interpreters] behind at risk and at the mercy of terrorist Taliban,” the campaign handle tweeted.
Nevertheless, many officials have expressed optimism about the progress the latest change has made. Wallace said, “Our efforts in Afghanistan simply could not have been possible without the help of brave interpreters who risked their lives to work alongside our personnel throughout the conflict. They did not leave us behind then, and we will not leave them behind now.”
The changes will be introduced next month through secondary legislation.