The government has “dismally failed” to protect Afghans who worked as interpreters for the British army and are now at risk from the Taliban and Islamic State, according to a Commons defence select committee report.
The study criticises the Home Office and Ministry of Defence for not fulfilling obligations towards thousands of Afghans who worked for British forces, many of them on the frontline.
The Conservative-led committee says the interpreters were often exposed to extremely dangerous situations.
“There is a broad consensus that the UK owes them a great debt of gratitude,” the report, Lost in Translation? Afghan Interpreters and Other Locally Employed Civilians, says.
“The government must abandon its policy of leaving former interpreters and other loyal personnel dangerously exposed.”
The home secretary, Sajid Javid, bowed to pressure this month over 150 interpreters seeking indefinite leave to remain in the UK, including waiving a £2,389 application fee.
There have been no such concessions for many others who have made it to the UK or who are still in Afghanistan where they are targeted by the Taliban or Isis.
British forces in Afghanistan employed 7,000 Afghan civilians, of whom about half were interpreters. The government set up two schemes. One offered relocation to the UK but is largely restricted to those who had served in Helmand province, scene of some of the toughest fighting in Afghanistan, between specific dates, December 2011 and December 2012. About 1,150, including dependents, have settled in the UK.
The other scheme, known as the intimidation scheme, is open to all 7,000 civilians but aimed at relocating them within Afghanistan if they faced threats from the Taliban or Islamic State and, only as a last resort, offering a place in the UK.
According to the report, not a single Afghan has been relocated as part of the intimidation scheme. The committee describes it as an “utter failure”.