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Afghan interpreters' legal challenge resumes

Lawyers issue proceedings, challenging the Government's resettlement scheme for Afghans who worked as interpreters for the British armed forces

Interpreters worked on the front line with troops in Afghanistan

21 January 2014

Lawyers for three Afghan interpreters have issued proceedings against the UK Government, challenging the inadequate resettlement scheme offered to Afghans who worked as interpreters for the British armed forces in Afghanistan and are facing death threats from the Taliban as a result.

The legal action at the High Court is on behalf of three Afghan nationals who, along with their families, continue to be intimidated in Afghanistan according to their lawyer, Rosa Curling at law firm Leigh Day.

Ms Curling claims that a redundancy scheme announced by the Defense Secretary, Philip Hammond, in a Written Ministerial Statement to the House of Commons last year, is inadequate and unlawful.

Mr Hammond announced the intended redundancy scheme to the Commons in June 2013 stating that it would be limited to translators who: “routinely worked in dangerous and challenging roles in Helmand outside protected bases”.

The scheme is only available to “those local staff who were in post, working directly for HMG, on 19 December 2012, when the Prime Minister announced the drawdown of UK forces, and who have served more than 12 months when they are made redundant.”

Mr Hammond made it clear that those whose employment ended before December 2012, and those whose employment was ended voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons, would not be eligible. This scheme is far more limited than that those offered to Iraqi interpreters who served the British forces during the Iraq conflict and also faced death threats as a result.

The three men are challenging the Government’s decision not to provide Afghan interpreters with the same level of assistance provided to the Iraqi interpreters.

They argue that the current targeted assistance scheme, in operation in Iraq, should be extended to Afghanistan.

Lawyers from Leigh Day have advised their client that the UK government’s refusal to provide Afghan interpreters with the same level of assistance and support as Iraqi interpreters is unlawful and discriminatory.

They claim that their clients’ situation is no different from their Iraqi counterparts and that they should be afforded the same benefits in accordance with the UK Government’s obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

The Iraqi locally engaged staff who qualified for assistance were eligible for:
  • A one-off package of financial assistance; or
  • Exceptional indefinite leave to enter the UK, outside the Immigration Rules, for the staff member and dependent including assistance with relocation and a reception and integration package; or
  • The opportunity of resettlement in the UK through the UK’s Gateway refugee resettlement programme.

Rosa Curling from Leigh Day, who is representing the three men, said:

“The benefits offered to Afghan interpreters under the new scheme announced by Philip Hammond in June 2013, are much worse than those offered to their Iraqi counterparts.

"None of our clients would qualify for the redundancy scheme as it stands and this is unlawful. It discriminates against our clients and others on the basis of their nationality.

"We cannot understand why the Government is choosing to turn their backs on these extraordinary, brave men who risked their lives for the British forces in Afghanistan.

"As William Hague said about the Iraqi interpreters, “As a matter of honour, we have to look after them”. The same applies to the Afghans.”


One of Leigh Day’s clients, known as Mr L for security reasons, remains in Afghanistan with his family. He was as an interpreter by British armed forces from five years.

On 19 March 2013, Mr L’s father reported receiving a phone call from an unknown male who said: “Hey you infidels spy, we have information about the operations which are happening in the area. It all because of you giving the information. We have found your place. Very soon you will see your punishment.”

A month later, Mr L himself via a text message on his phone received a similar message. Mr L’s work included frontline duties such as patrolling with UK soldiers in an active combat environment. He remains in Afghanistan in fear of his life.

Rafi started working as an interpreter for the British armed forces in 2006. After being seriously injured by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) in November 2007, whilst on patrol with British and Afghan forces in Helmand, he became responsible for the recruitment of other interpreters.

He was subsequently promoted to conduct training and prepare translations of restricted documents. Rafi received death threats and was physically attacked on several occasions before he fled to Britain. Although his request for a visa was refused, he eventually made it to the UK and was recently granted asylum.

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