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Afghan interpreters can now continue to help Britain

on Wednesday 22 May 2013 Written by David Martin

At Today Translations, we are delighted to hear that approximately 600 local Afghan interpreters who risked their lives working alongside British troops during the war will finally be supported by the British government.

The focus must now be on how we can make maximum use of the skills and talents that these linguists will bring to the UK. Today Translations Advisory Board Member David Clarke says that "We have a shortage of language skills in the UK, and it is not only the British army in battle that can benefit from the skills of talented linguists."

"We should encourage them to apply their talents to help British interests and our country as a whole."

At Today Translations, we have been closely monitoring these events. In April we hosted a panel discussion entitled "Linguists In Battle: A Postwar Dilemma" to raise awareness around the dangers local Afghan interpreters had put themselves through when serving the British military, and also addressed the lack of settlement policy.

The package that was announced on Wednesday grants a five-year UK visa to any interpreter, along with their families, who had worked on the frontline with British troops and had served for more than a year. It extends to any interpreter assigned to British forces between December 2012 up to December 2014.

Many interpreters have been living in fear of Taliban reprisals for collaborating with coalition forces, especially once foreign troops withdraw in next year.
Ministers had previously signaled that there would be no settlement scheme, and that cases for asylum would be judged on a case-by-case basis. We welcome this change in policy, as it recognises the heroic risks these interpreters have taken in serving the British armed forces.

Government has “finally seen sense”

Human rights lawyer Rosa Curling, who represented three Afghan interpreters in pursuing legal action against the government on the grounds of a lack of resettlement policy, and who spoke at the "Linguists in Battle" discussion, told BBC Radio 5 Live: "These are men who have been on the front line with our troops, risking their lives, involved in frontline battle, so we're delighted that the government has finally seen sense and decided to provide them with the assistance that they provided to the Iraqi interpreters."

However, she also said that for her clients, one of whom, "Mohammed," also spoke at the panel discussion, "the death threats continue, so resettling in Afghanistan does seem to be very difficult - the Taliban are very effective at following them". She has also expressed her concern for those interpreters who won't qualify for the scheme and whose lives may be left in danger.

At Today Translations, we take a great interest in all matters that impact the linguistic profession, and we work with highly talented linguists on a day-to-day basis, hugely valuing their skills. As such, this translation firm is seeking to help raise awareness around this important issue and expects the linguistic skills that many Afghan interpreters will bring to these shores to greatly benefit the country.