Tuesday, August 07, 2007


As Brits leave Basra their Iraqi interpreters are left to a grissly fate

(The Guardian) - Read the letters in full here
Britain was accused yesterday of abandoning 91 Iraqi interpreters and their families to face persecution and possible death when British forces withdraw. The Times has learnt that the Government has ignored personal appeals from senior army officers in Basra to relax asylum regulations and make special arrangements for Iraqis whose loyal services have put their lives at risk.
One interpreter, who has worked with the Army since 2004 and wanted to start a new life in Britain after British Forces pull out was told by Downing Street that he would receive no special favours and to read a government website.
There is mounting evidence of a campaign by militants to target “collaborators” as British Forces prepare to leave. Hundreds of interpreters and other locally engaged staff working for the coalition have been kidnapped, tortured and murdered over the past four years.
Denmark has already made special arrangements to help its Iraqi staff and the Americans are set to accept 7,000 Iraqi refugees.
Armed with a glowing reference from his commander, Major Pauric Newland, stating that his life would be in danger once British Forces left, A Kinani made a personal appeal to Tony Blair, during his last visit to Iraq as Prime Minister in May. His letter was handed to Ruth Turner, a former No 10 adviser, and a reply was sent on June 22 by Nick Banner, a former foreign policy adviser, who informed Mr Kinani that he was not eligible for asylum. He suggested that he went to a third country and applied for a visa and advised him to look at a website for help. “This is cowardly,” Mr Kinani told The Times. “The British make us easy food near the lion’s mouth.”
Last month Denmark granted asylum to 60 former Iraqi staff and their families before its forces withdrew from the south. The US has said it will take in 7,000 Iraqis this year, including former employees. But Britain has so far refused to make an exception. The Ministry of Defence and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said yesterday that Iraqi employees would receive no special help in applying for asylum.
“Anyone who is seeking to apply for refugee status must do so from within the United Kingdom. There is no exception to that,” said a Home Office spokesman. “Their cases will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis against the criteria of the 1951 Refugee Convention.” Senior politicians and serving officers have appealed to the Government to reconsider and there are hints that some ministers are in favour of resettling former Iraqi employees. One senior British officer in Iraq also hinted that Whitehall was beginning to feel the pressure for a U-turn.
William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, said: “Britain has benefited from the services of these Iraqis in carrying out our responsibilities in Iraq. As Britain reduces its military presence in Iraq, we ought to look to the safety of those who have risked their lives to help us.” David Winnick, a senior Labour MP, said: “I would hope that the authorities here would be no less generous than the Danes.”
The British position was criticised yesterday by human rights groups. Tom Porteous, the director of Human Rights Watch in the UK, said that the Government should reverse its policy.

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