Afghan interpreters in legal bid

Published: Wednesday 6th May 2015 by The News Editor

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Former interpreters who risked their lives working for the British military in Afghanistan are taking legal action over a Government assistance scheme they say unlawfully discriminates against them.

The two men, regarded by the Taliban as “infidel spies”, are seeking judicial review at London’s High Court.

They argue the scheme is unfair and unlawful because, with certain exceptions, assistance is not available to staff who left British employment before December 2012.

Their lawyers contend they are being discriminated against and treated differently to Iraqi interpreters who were given assistance when their lives became endangered through assisting the British in the Iraq war.

They want the scheme to cover “locally engaged staff” employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Afghanistan before the 2012 cut-off.

Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Irwin are being asked in a three-day hearing to declare the scheme discriminatory under the Equality Act 2010 and a breach of the common law and the Government’s public sector equality duty.

The men are being represented by law firm Leigh Day. Solicitor Rosa Curling says one of her clients, AL, remains in Afghanistan and must remain anonymous because he is still in constant danger and facing Taliban death threats.

The other claimant, Mohammed Rafi Hottak, a father of three, has already claimed asylum in the UK but has been unable to benefit from the assistance scheme.

Mr Hottak, who fled Afghanistan in 2011 after receiving death threats, has expressed his “disappointment” at having to take legal action.

He said of the MoD and FCO: “I risked bombs and bullets working for them. The people who I considered as friends and family, they are fighting me for my rights and the rights of my friends in Afghanistan.”

Ms Curling said that, if the legal challenge succeeds, it will be of benefit to many ex-interpreters seeking assistance from the UK to ensure they and their families can live safely outside Afghanistan.

The scheme under challenge dates back to when the Prime Minister announced the drawdown of UK forces from Afghanistan in 2012.

It was introduced to aid interpreters and other local staff deemed to be engaged in “dangerous and challenging roles” with the British who had been in post on December 19 2012 and had served more than 12 months.

With certain exceptions, staff whose employment ended before that date, either voluntarily or for disciplinary reasons, were not eligible.

Ms Curling said: “Just because these men stopped working for the British forces prior to this date does not mean the Taliban are not targeting them.

“The current policy adopted by the Government is discriminatory when compared with the more favourable treatment of Iraqi interpreters. It is also completely irrational.”

Ms Curling added: “Many of the former interpreters who do not qualify under the current policy provided great service to the UK forces in Afghanistan.

“These men and their families are being ignored by the UK Government and after the Western forces leave later this year, things will only get worse for them.

“The Taliban aren’t checking what date interpreters were employed by the British to decide whether or not to try and kill them.”

Published: Wednesday 6th May 2015 by The News Editor

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