Hundreds of translators face Taliban’s vengeance: Race to save UK’s battlefield helpers who are living in fear of execution as Kabul falls
- Ex-Afghan military translators who worked for two decades may not be rescued
- Up to 1,000 men, women and children could miss the chance of a new life in UK
- Ex-Army commander warned Prime Minister could have ‘blood on his hands’
Hundreds of former Afghan military translators for UK forces fear being abandoned to face the revenge of the Taliban as the frenzied scramble to leave Kabul intensified yesterday.
Men who risked their lives beside British forces described panic and confusion as they watched heavily-armed Taliban fighters on the streets outside their homes in the city’s suburbs.
Campaigners estimate that around 200 former translators who worked over the last two decades for UK forces may not be rescued – for many because their claim for relocation was rejected – even if the ‘freedom flights’ are able to continue.
Including their families, this leaves up to 1,000 men, women and children who could miss the chance of a deserved new life in Britain and instead be left to the brutal mercy of the Taliban.
Former Afghan interpreter Wazir, 31, and his family fled Kabul with other refugees
Government sources said that a total of around 1,700 ‘former locally employed staff and their families’ have been told they can come to the UK.
A former Army commander warned that the Prime Minister will have ‘blood on his hands’ if any interpreters are abandoned to their death by Britain.
Major General Charlie Herbert said: ‘If any interpreters or their family members are murdered by the Taliban, Boris Johnson, the Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and the Home Secretary Priti Patel will have their blood on their hands.
‘It is too late now for most interpreters caught in areas controlled by the Taliban. I am getting messages from them and they are heartbroken and terrified. They are hiding for their lives as the Taliban go from house to house trying to find them.’
As the Taliban closed in on Kabul yesterday the interpreters spoke of scenes of chaos as those given permission to relocate tried to confirm flights, those waiting for their cases to be decided pleaded for a decision and those rejected accused the UK of ‘leaving us behind for the Taliban to avenge’.
Najib, who worked for eight years with UK forces and has been granted sanctuary, said: ‘It was a terrifying moment to see our enemy on the streets of our capital as victors. We all fear for our lives. We do not know if the British can still save us, maybe it is now too late.’
The 37-year-old, who has a family of four, added: ‘We are all afraid of what the future holds and the reality is that many of the interpreters will be left behind.’ The Defence Secretary had personally overturned the decision to deny sanctuary in Britain to 60 translators previously barred from relocating here due to minor criminal convictions or disciplinary issues which ended their service.
They were among a batch of 88 ‘contentious cases’ which were sent to Mr Wallace following pressure from this newspaper’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign.
Others who contacted the British Afghan team working on the cases said their calls and emails went unanswered as officials face a massive workload, under mounting pressure to analyse each scenario. The fears in Kabul were mirrored in the UK where former translators who were rescued by Britain demanded the Government help their families who, they believe, will be punished and killed.
More than 200 said they are planning a demonstration outside Parliament on Wednesday calling for the Government to assure them their families will be relocated.
Rafi Hottak, a former supervisor of interpreters who was blown up on the front lines in Helmand and now lives in the Midlands after claiming asylum, said: ‘We are terrified about the Taliban punishing our families because of our work for the UK.
‘We intend to keep a vigil outside Parliament and the Home Office until we know the Government is going to act. The window of opportunity to save life is very small. It is Britain’s moral responsibility.’
For the last 56 days, Mayar (pictured middle) has been waiting for a phone call or email to tell him and his family the details of the freedom flight that will take them to Britain
UK-based translators said many MPs had offered their support and would call on ministers to save those at risk because of their work alongside British forces.
Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds wrote to Miss Patel yesterday calling on the Government to live up to Britain’s obligations on Afghanistan.
He said: ‘The Taliban’s return is likely to drive many thousands of people from their homes, with women and girls at particular risk. The UK Government must put in place specific safe and legal asylum routes to help provide support.’
Last night the Ministry of Defence would not comment on how many former translators had been barred from relocating to the UK.
A spokesman said it estimates around 2,000 Afghans who have worked for UK forces are in Afghanistan – unofficial figures are higher.