Asylum for Interpreters

July 19, 2013 by admin

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The life of an interpreter serving in a war drives danger to a whole new level. Imagine adopting a meticulously-woven cover story just to arrive at work, which happens to fall on the other side.


The knowledge you hold is as important as the Rosetta stone and may very well determine the fate of the battle. Despite precautions, your cover is blown. Grave warnings are now blown your way. Just when you think it couldn’t have got any worse, the threats manifest into an ugly growth now encompassing your family.


Interpreters working with British troops in Afghanistan take on these types of risks. A recent BBC article quoted one of the interpreters, who told them, “One of my colleagues was captured, held for months and killed by the Taliban. They returned his body to his family in exchange for ransom.” With the heightening hazard, some interpreters have fled to Britain seeking asylum.


Upon thanking supporters, one Afghan interpreter adds, “We risked everything to do this job and we are glad that the British government has recognised our service and the sacrifices we made for them. Our friends did not abandon us to be persecuted by the Taliban. The British government has given us the chance to live once more in peace and prosperity.”


Currently, around 600 Afghan interpreters are to be given rights to reside in the UK. Also, out of more than 2,000 interpreters, around half who have served on the front lines for up to a year or more are being offered 5-year UK visas. Those accepting the visa will then be able to apply for an indefinite stay in the UK. Those, however, wishing to remain in Afghanistan are being offered financial support.


Some, though, believe these schemes to be limited. A campaign group called Avaaz, are, for example, petitioning that asylum be granted to all Afghan interpreters. Concerns are also being raised as to the criteria for interpreters being allowed UK residency as these might only encompass those who have worked from December 2012 to December 2014. Many, therefore, feel like they have been abandoned.


While measures offering the right to reside are important in ensuring safety and in providing opportunity, an encouragement of young talents towards the development of a country must also be sought after. The British prime minister would like to support the promotion as well for “talented Afghans to stay in their country,” which certainly also pertains to young interpreters.


As a contrast of compensation, interpreters of the Iraqi war were given a choice of either financial support or the indefinite right to remain in the UK which was complemented by a resettlement program. It has, however, been decided that resettlement provisions for Afghanistan interpreters are to vary.

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