The government has been “hugely reluctant” to relocate local interpreters who assisted British forces in Afghanistan to Britain, the chair of the defence committee has warned.
Approximately 7000 locally employed civilians worked alongside the British military, about half in vitally important interpreter roles.
Currently Afghan civilians can be relocated to the UK under two schemes, the redundancy scheme initially open to those who lost their jobs when British forces withdrew in 2012, and the intimidation scheme, open to those who fear retaliation for assisting foreign forces.
Although defence secretary Gavin Williamson has expanded the redundancy scheme to allow more interpreters to relocate, the intimidation scheme has been branded an “utter failure” by MPs.
Speaking to talkRADIO’s Matthew Wright, defence committee chair Dr Julian Lewis said the government has been “hugely reluctant” to relocate civilians under the intimidation scheme.
“I don’t think either our government or the Afghan government want it to look like it’s not safe enough for them to look after people in our own country,” Dr Lewis said.
“We know even in modern democracies that where you’ve got terrorists at large in society they can pick off targets if they are malicious and determined enough to do it, and that’s the situation where these brave interpreters, who helped us so much, find themselves in.”
According to a report last year, the majority of locally employed civilians assisted under the intimidation scheme have been provided with security advice or relocated within Afghanistan, rather than rehoused in the UK.
Dr Lewis called on the government to provide more support for rehousing interpreters in the UK, rather than provide assistance on the ground.
He added: “In this day and age, connected as we are, it’s not that easy to disappear and form a new identity in another town.”