Don’t renege on your debt of honour to Afghan translators, Rishi: Generals, diplomats, lords and veterans tells PM not to forget 2,725 trapped in Afghanistan who are qualified for sanctuary in UK
- The call came in a very powerful letter headed ‘Forgotten Afghans’ to the PM
Generals, diplomats, peers and Afghan veterans today joined forces to urge Rishi Sunak not to ‘renege on the debt of honour’ owed to those who risked their lives for the UK.
Some of Britain’s highest ranking former military officers called for help for thousands of ‘brothers in arms’ Afghan translators and others who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with UK forces on the battlefield, and are now stranded.
In a powerful letter headed ‘Forgotten Afghans’ to the Prime Minister, they highlight how an estimated 2,725 have qualified for sanctuary in the UK in return for their risky service, yet remain unable to escape from Afghanistan.
A further nearly 2,000 have escaped and been told they can come to Britain to start new lives in safety, but are stuck in hotels in foreign countries awaiting their visas.
They include 700 children among the men’s families, many of whom have not been able to go to school for over a year, while they wait for the Home Office to do the paperwork.
Generals, diplomats, lords and veterans have told the Prime Minister not to forget 2,725 trapped in Afghanistan who are qualified for sanctuary in UK
An estimated 2,725 have qualified for sanctuary in the UK in return for their risky service, yet remain unable to escape from Afghanistan
It is nearly two years since the brutal Taliban regime’s triumphant takeover of Kabul. Anyone who had worked for the ‘infidel’ British became a target and many have been murdered or maimed.
Today/yesterday, a former Chief of Defence Staff – the highest military rank in Britain – General Lord Richards of Herstmonceux led a parade of senior figures urging the PM to step in.
Lord Richards said: ‘For all of us who had the privilege of serving our country in Afghanistan, this is a debt of honour that we and our country must repay. The Government has done well. But let’s not fail at the last hurdle.’
READ MORE: Afghan translators who risked their lives for Britain are denied entry to the country due to housing shortages
Others signatories on the letter included General Lord Dannatt, ex-head of the Army, General Sir John McColl, who was Deputy Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, former NATO Secretary General Lord Robertson, and Lord Sedwill, the former British Ambassador in Kabul.
And their letter was given added significance because it is also signed by several British soldiers who suffered terrible life-changing injuries on the frontlines and know the risks taken for them by interpreters and others still trapped.
They include members of the so-called ‘Casevac Club’ of those wounded in action in Helmand, such as Corporal Josh Boggi blown up two months into his third tour of Afghanistan after stepping on an IED. He lost both legs and his right arm.
They believe not enough is being done to help the Afghans who risked their own safety to help save the lives of so many British service personnel.
Sir John McColl said: ‘The plight of those Afghans ignored and forgotten in Pakistan is a disgrace. The Government must honour its pledge to support those who fought and died alongside us so bravely.’
While highlighting concern for those trapped and being hunted by the Taliban in Afghanistan, the letter also focuses on the chronic situation in hotels in Pakistan where hundreds of Afghans are stuck in a Kafkaesque catch-22 – told they can come to Britain for sanctuary but can only get a visa if they can arrange housing, which is illegal to do without a visa.
Lord Richards said: ‘For all of us who had the privilege of serving our country in Afghanistan, this is a debt of honour that we and our country must repay’
The letter says: ‘Destitute Afghans are being told to find their own accommodation in the UK, navigating an impenetrable bureaucratic maze without any support. In a year’s time there could be almost 4,000 Afghans stranded in Pakistan.’
This newspaper’s award-winning Betrayal of the Brave campaign has repeatedly highlighted the plight of those in Afghanistan hunted by vengeful Taliban. And we revealed yesterday how nearly 2,000 are stranded in Pakistan hotels despite there being 5,000 hotel rooms available in Britain already paid for by taxpayers that are being kept empty for possible future Channel boat migrants.
A High Court battle is looming on behalf of three ex-military translators challenging the housing policy which they claim is unlawful.
MP and Afghan veteran Dan Jarvis, who helped co-ordinate the letter, added: ‘People who risked their lives in support of our mission have been left behind. Some are dead, some are living in limbo, and there’s no plan to get them here.
‘Many of us who served have a deep bond of affection for the Afghans we worked alongside. While our mission in Afghanistan is over, our commitment to its people is not.
‘It’s on the Prime Minister to do all he can to honour the obligations made to get these people to safety.’
The Home Office, which is responsible for visas, it was ‘committed to providing protection for vulnerable and at-risk people fleeing Afghanistan, with around 24,500 brought to safety in the UK so far, and we continue to work across government and with partners to find suitable accommodation for them’.
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