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Afghan interpreters go to the High Court in asylum row

The High Court will, this week, hear arguments on behalf of three Afghan interpreters who worked for the UK Government in Afghanistan.

10 June 2014

The High Court will, this week, hear arguments on behalf of three Afghan interpreters that the British Government’s scheme offered to locally employed staff by the British armed forces in Afghanistan is unlawful.

The half day permission hearing at the High Court will take place on 11th June 2014. The three claimants known as Rafi, AL and AP are all Afghan nationals and all worked for the UK Government in Afghanistan.

AL remains in Afghanistan. The other two claimants are in the UK but without their families who remain in Afghanistan. Two of the men are subject to an anonymity order as a result of the dangers they and their families face from the Taleban. Many other Afghans who worked for the UK Government in Afghanistan are similarly at risk.

The High Court will hear that ‘locally engaged staff’ (LES) working for the UK Government in Iraq were in a comparably dangerous situation. As in Afghanistan, their work in support of the UK left them and their families exposed to serious risks. To address this concern, the Defendants instituted an assistance scheme for Iraqi LES. This scheme provided eligible staff with the following benefits:

1.    A one-off package of financial assistance; or

2.    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

3.    The opportunity of resettlement in the UK through the UK’s Gateway refugee resettlement programme.  

Despite being in an equivalent position, the claimants and other Afghan LES have not been allowed to access the Iraq LES Scheme or any comparable scheme of protection.

According to their lawyer, Rosa Curling from the human rights team at law firm Leigh Day, this represents a breach of the UK Government’s obligations under the Equality Act 2010.

In June 2013 the Defence Secretary Philip Hammond announced a redundancy scheme for Afghan LES to the Commons 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.

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

“This redundancy scheme does nothing to help the vast majority of locally employed staff who did so much to help and protect British forces in Afghanistan.

“It remains far more limited than that the scheme offered to Iraqi interpreters and discriminates against our clients and others on the basis of their nationality, therefore, it is unlawful and discriminatory.

“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.“

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