Concerns raised over Afghan interpreter visa access

24 May 2013 | Posted by Carl Thomas

A UK immigration lawyer and a number of campaigners have expressed concern over the visa scheme set up for Afghan interpreters.

Many Afghans worked with the British army to help keep their operations on track during the war in the country. In fact, more than 2,000 have provided assistance since the war began, risking their safety to do so.

Around 1,000 Afghan staff were made redundant earlier this year as the conflict looks set to draw to a close. The Foreign Office launched a UK visa scheme to allow these people to make a new start in Britain if they wanted to as recognition for their work.

However, one senior backbench Conservative MP has suggested that the scheme comes with “limited” criteria and has urged the government to ensure that any interpreter who has served since 2006 can get one of the five-year visas on offer. At the moment, the visas are initially only due to be offered to those who worked on the front line and may not be available to those who helped in the earlier years of the war.

Immigration lawyer, Rosa Curling, who has been acting on behalf of three Afghan interpreters, echoed this concern. She told the BBC that she welcomed that changes which recognised the “bravery of Afghan interpreters”, but added: “We are, however, concerned that some interpreters may not qualify if the scheme is only available to those employed between December 2012 and December 2014 and limited to front line staff only.”

Avaaz is running a campaign to try to ensure that all Afghan interpreters who worked with the British armed forces are offered asylum. So far the signature petition has 83,000 names attached to it. One interpreter who has signed noted: “I risked everything to do this job and I never thought the British government would abandon some of us like this.”