Former leader of the Liberal Democrats Paddy Ashdown has spoken out to encourage the Government to consider offering Afghan interpreters asylum in Britain, reports The London Evening Standard.
The issue is a controversial one, not least given the strong political and emotional feelings surrounding immigration and asylum in general.
However, there seems to be considerable public support for the idea, with one petition gathering more than 60,000 names.
David Cameron held talks with senior advisors and ministers last week to discuss the matter, ahead of any decision being made.
Lord Ashdown, himself a former Royal Marine who famously served in the Special Boat Service, believes that the UK should not abandon those who helped in its mission in Afghanistan, telling the BBC that the UK owed them a ‘debt of honour’.
Afghans who assisted UK and other foreign forces in the country risked their lives and the lives of their families. There are many stories of interpreters being killed by the Taliban for the work they carried out.
Former Chief of the General Staff Mike Jackson spoke out at the beginning of last month to say it was shameful that the UK was the only member of the International Security Assistance Forces in Afghanistan not to offer interpreters asylum.
Campaign group Avaaz has taken on the petition on behalf of one interpreter, who wishes to remain anonymous but is referred to as Abdul on their site.
Avaaz claim the matter is now time critical, as UK forces begin to withdraw leaving those who have helped them behind to face Taliban consequences.
“Risks to their lives are growing daily as the UK starts to withdraw; we cannot abandon them and we must act now. Their fate is in your hands,” the petition reads.
The UK has helped interpreters in the past, notably with the ‘targeted assistance scheme’ that was provided to Iraqi interpreters after UK involvement there. The Iraqi’s were offered asylum or a one-off financial payment in return for their assistance.
David Cameron discusses Afghan interpreters’ rights to asylum (London Evening Standard)
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