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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Afghan interpreters win right to remain in Britain

The translators served with British troops on the frontline in Helmand

Translators who served with British troops in Afghanistan said they face deportation unless they can pay £2,400 in fees. (AP)
Translators who served with British troops in Afghanistan said they face deportation unless they can pay £2,400 in fees. (AP)

Four hundred Afghan interpreters, who risked their lives helping British troops in Helmand Province, will be allowed to stay in the UK free of charge, government ministers said on Friday.

Home secretary Sajid Javid made the announcement in one of his first moves in the post - after a scandal over threatened deportations of Caribbean immigrants forced his predecessor Amber Rudd to step down.

The Windrush fiasco led to weeks of controversy over the government's tough approach to immigration and dealt a blow to Prime Minister Theresa May's authority as she once led efforts to tackle illegal immigration as interior minister.

"The local Afghan interpreters worked in dangerous and challenging situations, regularly putting their lives at risk," Mr Javid said in a statement.

"We have always been clear that they will be able to stay in the UK with their families and today I have announced that they will be able to do this for free."

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After being appointed on Monday, Mr Javid had promised a "fair and humane" immigration system. He also vowed to do everything he could to help the Windrush migrants.

Previously Afghan interpreters - who performed their services sometimes at risk to themselves and their families - faced a fee of £2,398 to secure permanent settlement.

More than 150 translators who served in Helmand Province - which saw some of the fiercest combat in Afghanistan from 2001 to 2014 - wrote to ministers saying they had been "left in limbo" by the "shameful and indefensible policy", according to British media.

In total, the interior ministry says 400 interpreters are in Britain after being made redundant when the "military drawdown" of combat forces in Afghanistan started at the end of 2012.

They were offered relocation as they "faced particular danger in their role", the ministry said.

Now those interpreters who have been in Britain for five years, as well as their families, will have the costs waived.

"In addition, the Home Office has committed to looking again at what can be done to make the process easier for Afghan interpreters to bring family members still in Afghanistan over to the UK," the statement said.

Legislation required to enact the changes will be introduced in July.

"It clearly wasn't right that after putting their lives on the line for us that we then expected them to pay for the right to stay in this country," defence secretary Gavin Williamson wrote in an editorial for The Times on Friday.