Afghan interpreters given right to live in UK

Up to 200 visas expected for workers, families

By ZAHID MAHMOOD, CNN
Abdul Bari via CNN

An undated photo shows Abdul Bari during his time working for the British military.

LONDON (CNN) - A number of Afghan interpreters who served alongside the British Army will be allowed to resettle in the UK, following a change of government policy.

Under the proposed changes to the existing government relocation scheme, former interpreters who were made redundant and served in Helmand province from 2006 onwards can resettle in Britain with their wives and children. Previously they had to have served in Helmand in 2012, and for at least a year.

The government estimates the number of visas issued under the program would rise to 200.

Writing for the Daily Mail, Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson praised interpreters as the "unsung heroes" who served with "dazzling distinction" following the 2001 US-led military invasion.

"Standing shoulder to shoulder with our troops on the battlefield, they demonstrated unflinching courage in carrying out duties that were fraught with great difficulty and danger.

"I cannot be clearer in expressing our nation's eternal appreciation to these brave individuals who regularly risked life and limb to help defeat our enemies and protect us from terrorists," he wrote.

'The Taliban would kill him'

The move comes at a time where the British government has faced severe criticism for its treatment of immigrants and Afghan interpreters.

Last month more than 150 interpreters wrote a letter to British Home Secretary Sajid Javid saying they'd been told to pay thousands of pounds in visa application fees.

In May, CNN spoke to Abdul Bari, a 27-year-old former interpreter who was facing removal by the Home Office despite serving alongside British forces between 2008 and 2010.

The changes, however, do not affect Bari as he quit his job and sought asylum in Britain in 2015 after he and his family said they received death threats from the Taliban.

Despite the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, Britain says it is a safe country to return to, according to a government policy review released in April.

Campaigners believe the proposed changes could help some interpreters who served, but would still leave a large number who are being removed at risk.

"If Bari is sent back to Afghanistan the Taliban would kill him -- it's a breach of his human rights," President of Glasgow Afghans United Abdul Bostani told CNN.

"All they would be concerned with is that he was an interpreter for the West and therefore they would see him as a spy.

"Interpreters who have worked for the army have done so in good faith and it's a failure from the Home Office to not consider their application for asylum. They have just used them," he added.

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