UK opens doors to Afghan translators

No 10 has offered a partial U-turn by allowing some Afghan translators to settle in Britain.

The prime minister had previously argued Britain's efforts in Afghanistan should have made it safe for the translators who have worked closed with UK forces in their struggle against the Taliban.

But warnings that they feared retribution after British forces withdraw from the country after 2014 have finally forced a limited climbdown.

Around 600 translators and their families are now to be permitted a five-year visa to resettle in Britain. They will be given assistance in finding employment and accommodation.

"We should recognise the service given by those who have regularly put themselves in real danger while working for us," a Downing Street source was quoted as saying.

"These proposals give them a choice: the opportunity to go on working in Afghanistan, learning new skills and to go on rebuilding their country or to come and make a new start in Britain."

Those finding work or training will continue to receive a salary for five years. Those who do not work will be paid for 18 months.

Leigh Day, the firm of solicitors helping many of the translators, expressed concern that both Kabul-based translators and those who had worked for MI6 were not included in the package, however.

"I think what's crucial is there is a recognition of the bravery and the risk these men have faced as a result of the work for our troops abroad on the frontline," Rosa Curling, who helped three translators take their case to court, told the Today programme.

One of the three Afghan translators represented by Leigh Day, known as Abdul for security reasons, had faced anonymous threats of punishment earlier this year.

"They have that choice… they can come here if that's what's needed to make them safe and that's what they choose to do."

On March 19th an unknown male told him over the phone: "Hey you infidels spy, we have information about the operations which are happening in the area. It all because of you giving the information. We have found your place. Very soon you will see your punishment."

The new package follows coalition tensions over the fate of the translators, with former Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown arguing strongly in favour of their right to relocate.

"Our forces could not do their job without them. So let them come back here. Relocation is the right thing for those who want it," Ashdown had said.

Around Iraqi 900 translators were permitted to settle in the UK. They received a one-off package of financial assistance, exceptional indefinite leave to remain in the UK for a staff member and dependent and the opportunity of resettlement through the UK's Gateway resettlement programme.