November 13, 2020 Faith Matters

Significant Changes to the Afghanistan Locally Employed Staff Ex-Gratia Scheme or ‘Afghan Interpreters Scheme’

We have long campaigned on the case of Mohammed Nabi Wardak, an Afghan military translator who saw action in Helmand with British forces when our troops were in-country and in the midst of controlling the violence and terrorism associated with the Taliban.

Our work rallied the Sun newspaper, as well as others, in highlighting the case of ‘Nabi’ and those Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to ensure the safety and security of residents in Helmand, which during 2009-2011, saw some of the worst attacks against civilians and British forces in the region.

After 3 years of work on highlighting Nabi’s case and advocating for changes to this Scheme, the Government has listened and made some significant changes which means that more former Afghan translators meet the criteria for possible resettlement into the United Kingdom.

The crux of the changes are these:

–        In 2018, the Defence Secretary announced that the criteria for the Afghan Locally Employed Ex-Gratia Scheme was expanded to include all Afghan interpreters who served for a year or more on the frontline in Helmand from May 2006. They were eligible for relocation to the United Kingdom if they met these basic criteria and these guidelines were a further enhancement on the initial parameters of the scheme which stipulated that only those Afghan personnel serving on the 19th of December 2012, and who were made redundant, were eligible for relocation. It was a significant expansion of the scheme, though there was one caveat. That caveat was that any personnel who were dismissed or resigned would not be eligible and the scheme therefore only included those made redundant.

–        Lobbying by many agencies, including Faith Matters, has led to a further change to the Ex-Gratia Scheme (EGS) and we are grateful to the Government’s change in position and for the willingness to understand that the lives of wider numbers of former Afghan personnel are at stake, particularly with the Taliban vying for governmental positions in a peace agreement in Afghanistan.

–        Last month, a further change to the EGS was made. The Defence Secretary and the Home Secretary extended the Scheme again. In a letter to Faith Matters, the text highlighted that Locally Employed Afghan Civilians who also resigned from service would be included for resettlement. The relevant text is outlined below:

“As such, the criteria now require either that the applicant was made redundant on or after 01 May 2006 with 12 months or more service outside the wire on the frontline in Helmand, or that the applicant resigned on or after 01 May 2006 with 18 months or more service outside the wire on the frontline in Helmand. If a former LEC meets these new criteria, they will be eligible for relocation.”

These changes mean that Mohammed Nabi Wardak’s case meets these criteria and he could, (after 4 years of having left Afghanistan), finally be able to enter the United Kingdom with his family.

Nabi has not seen his family since he fled Afghanistan and he resigned because of multiple Taliban threats to his life for supporting and assisting the British army in Afghanistan. These threats were played out with an attempted kidnap attempt against him in broad daylight. If the perpetrators had managed to kidnap him, Nabi’s fate would certainly have been an execution by the Taliban for helping British forces.

We remember asking Nabi why he joined as a military interpreter and his answer was simple; he said “I thought that the British could make a better Afghanistan, where girls could go to school and we could not live in fear”.

Nabi fled Afghanistan after multiple threats to his life in-country. He travelled to Turkey and his labour was brutally exploited since he had no means of support. He then followed the route that Syrian refugees were taking to get into Europe to seek asylum, which he did, only to be arrested and thrown into jail. He was eventually released and left destitute on the streets of Athens where he slept on park benches and ate and drunk what members of the public could give him. The excruciating heat of Athens in summer and a lack of public drinking water sources also nearly cost him his life as he was destitute on the streets.

It should never really have reached this point and our country should have opened its doors many years go to people like Nabi who risked their lives for our soldiers. We are now at the final stages for entry of this man and his family into this country. Let us hope that Nabi and his family are with us before Christmas. There is light at the end of this tunnel and about time too.

Read more: Thirteen killed, 120 injured in Afghan car bombing