New blow for Afghan translators: More than 600 ‘are abandoned’ as UK Government unit that examines pleas for sanctuary snubs battlefield heroes
- Former Afghan translators for UK forces face grave threats to their lives but say the standard set by the UK government for sanctuary is ‘impossible’ to meet
- The UK’s Intimidation Investigation Unit (IIU) is accused of ‘dismissing’ claims
- More than 600 cases have been brought to the IIU but none were deemed serious enough for sanctuary and claimants were given standard security tips
- Dozens of translators spoke to the Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign
Former Afghan translators for British forces face an ‘impossible’ task to prove their lives are in danger from the Taliban when seeking help from the UK government unit that is meant to be their lifeline, a whistleblower has said.
In a damning insight into the Intimidation Investigation Unit (IIU), a Briton who worked with it said translators applying for relocation faced ‘unfair barriers’ and alleged the ‘focus was on putting the claimant under investigation’.
Based in the Afghan capital Kabul, the unit determines whether an interpreter’s life is at such risk that they should receive help and money to relocate at home or be given sanctuary in Britain. The IIU is frequently held up by ministers and officials as proof that Britain is meeting its responsibilities to those who risked their lives for the UK.
Former Afghan translators for British forces face an ‘impossible’ task to prove their lives are in danger from the Taliban when seeking help from the UK government unit that is meant to be their lifeline, a whistleblower has said. Pictured: An ex-UK military and Foreign Office translator Nazir with tribal and Helmand leaders at town meetings in the frontline town of Musa Qala. The translator pictured has been given sanctuary in the UK
But the Daily Mail has learned that while more than 600 cases have been taken to the unit, not one has been deemed serious enough for sanctuary in the UK.
Dozens of translators who have spoken to the Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign have provided distressing details of their cases, claiming they have been shot, stabbed, ambushed by gunmen, and had family members murdered, kidnapped and threatened.
Son abducted and daughter run over by the Taliban, says translator father
Hamim, 46, worked in Helmand on the frontlines, but left after his family home was set on fire. He later found work as a teacher and faced no difficulties for a number of years.
That changed last year when the threats began again. One letter was found by his daughter, seven, in the family garage.
Hamim moved away from home, but his 14-year-old son was abducted and beaten, he believes, by the Taliban. Then his daughter was run down by a motorcycle in what he is convinced was a Taliban operation to force him to return to see the injured girl.
He did and was ambushed in his car by gunmen. One shouted that Hamim was the ‘son of the English’ as he began firing. Bullets hit the car window, but he reached safety at a nearby checkpoint. Hamim said the gunman was arrested 48 hours later after another attack. He said the man was from the Taliban and admitted the ambush on his car.
Hamim claims the Intimidation Investigation Unit only offered him security advice after he reported the threats.
Pictured: Hamim on duty in Helmand
Yet they say they have been ‘dismissed’ by the unit with only basic security advice such as to vary routes home, change mobile phone SIM cards, move areas and not wear ‘flash’ clothes.
As a result, they say the IIU is ‘unfit for purpose’ and is ‘abandoning’ them to the Taliban.
The whistleblower, who served more than six months with the unit, has given weight to the allegations. He said: ‘The claim that the UK is paying exceptional diligence to Afghan interpreters because it has an IIU is absurd. The IIU policy requires claimants to meet what I believe to be an impossible requirement of providing evidence to show that the threat to them existed, was direct, and explicitly linked to UK employment.’
He painted a picture of a badly resourced unit unable to leave the safety of base areas, using poorly kept records, conducting the majority of interviews with translators on an old phone and facing huge difficulties in checking claims.
‘Mostly investigations involved looking into old personal files to try to investigate the claimant, to find reason not to believe their story,’ he explained.
‘The policy was expecting the impossible: That someone who is threatened or even attacked by a member of the Taliban could immediately collect phone numbers of all surrounding witnesses and present a flawless case to the IIU.’
Significantly, two former translators who worked for the IIU and were the link between investigators and interpreters also claimed the way it operated was ‘deeply unfair’. One told the Mail he believed that investigators often began with the position of ‘distrust and disbelief’.
Both translators spoke independently of the whistleblower, who provided his evidence to the Suhla Alliance, a group of former Army officers and academics campaigning for the rights of Afghan translators.
Major Ed Aitken, who served in Helmand, said on the alliance’s behalf: ‘It is a deeply institutional injustice that is a reflection of those who make the policies back in London.’
A defence source said: ‘We are currently reviewing our policy in this area to make sure we are doing all we can to protect and support local staff.’
A Government spokesman said: ‘We are committed to supporting individuals with security advice, financial assistance and relocation to safe areas.’
The latest twist in the long-running saga comes two weeks after three translators were told they and their families were finally eligible for relocation to Britain. It marked a relaxation of the rule that they must have served in Helmand for at least a year.