Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Cash payment or a life in Britain for Iraqi interpreters

(The Times) - Hundreds of Iraqis who risked their lives working for the British will be given a choice of a cash payment or the chance to live in Britain, David Miliband said yesterday. In a written ministerial statement, the Foreign Secretary fleshed out details of the assistance announced by Gordon Brown on Monday to help Iraqis who have served as interpreters and in other sensitive jobs since the invasion of Iraq.
The policy U-turn followed a two-month campaign by The Times to highlight the plight of Iraqi interpreters, who have been persecuted by insurgents for “collaborating” with Britain. Although details have not been finalised, the plan will probably cost millions of pounds and aid several hundred Iraqis and their families. The offer falls short of a comprehensive deal for all the estimated 20,000 Iraqis who have worked for the British since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. This summer the Danes airlifted all their former Iraqi employees and their families for resettlement in Denmark.
The main beneficiaries of the British scheme will be existing Iraqi staff who have worked for the Ministry of Defence, the British diplomatic missions in Iraq, the Department for International Development or the British Council for at least 12 months up to August 8, when the review was ordered. They will be offered a one-off cash payment worth between six and twelve months’ salary, depending on length of service.
There are currently 500 Iraqis employed by the British in Iraq, mostly working for the Army in Basra. Of those, 280 have worked for 12 months. Their salaries range from £130 to £600 a month. The top payment would be in the order of £7,000. The money would be used to help an employee and his dependants if he were made redundant or forced to resign under pressure. It is intended to help a family relocate to a safer area of Iraq or elsewhere in the region.
Iraqis will also be offered the option of applying to move to Britain. Ministers have created an entirely new “exceptional leave to remain” category for those still in Iraq wishing to come to the UK. They will be allowed to settle in Britain, though it has not yet been agreed for how long. In reality, once they are in the country they will be allowed to remain for good.
The second route is for those already outside Iraq who meet the criteria of having worked for the Government. They will register with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and apply for the Gateway programme that brings a few hundred refugees into the UK each year. They will have to satisfy the Commissioner that there is little prospect of their being resettled in Iraq and may then join the scheme, which has 300 places in 2008 and a further 300 in 2009. On arrival in the UK they will be granted asylum.
The same choice of cash or resettlement is also open for interpreters, translators and other professionals formerly employed by the British in Iraq. To qualify they need to have been employed for one year after January 1, 2005. Before then, it is considered to have been safe to have worked for the British in southern Iraq. Mr Miliband also made provision to help a “limited number of contracted staff”, who worked in sensitive roles such as advisers. He said: “Locally engaged Iraqi staff working for our Armed Forces and civilian missions in Iraq have made an invaluable contribution.”The offer is weighted deliberately in favour of Iraqis taking the cash rather than choosing to resettle in Britain. To do that a former employee would first have to flee the country, as millions of Iraqis have done to Jordan or Syria. They would then need to register with the UNHCR as refugees, a process that can take months to complete.

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