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Afghan interpreters who worked with British military land in UK today after fleeing Taliban
June 22, 2021
The first group of former Afghan interpreters whose lives are in danger because they worked for the British military are due to arrive in the UK from Afghanistan in the coming hours under a new government scheme, Sky News understands.
An aircraft reportedly carrying more than a dozen Afghans who were employed by UK forces, as well as family members, is expected to land at an airport in the Midlands later on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) declined to comment on the flight – first reported by the Daily Mail – because of security concerns for the men, women and children who have asked to flee Afghanistan after receiving threats from the Taliban.
Taliban militants are growing in strength across the country, regaining more territory from the UK and US-backed Afghan government. It comes as British, US and other NATO forces prepare to withdraw over the next three months following almost 20 years of conflict.
The Taliban views anyone associated with the US and NATO-led mission in Afghanistan as a traitor who deserves to die.
The increased influence of the militant group means a corresponding risk for such personnel.
Concerns over the safety of former staff, most of them interpreters, prompted the MoD and the Home Office in May to expand the eligibility criteria of a relocation scheme for Afghans seeking to flee.
Previously, the government had resisted pressure to allow large numbers of men and women to relocate, saying such a move would deprive Afghanistan of a talented pool of young individuals, vital for the future prosperity of the country.
More than 3,000 Afghans are expected to take advantage of the offer, on top of some 1,300 who have already made the journey under a previous, more restrictive policy. They are expected to be flown to the UK in groups.
It is understood that the first flight left Kabul earlier on Tuesday. Everyone had to undergo stringent security as well as COVID-related health checks.
Afghanistan is on the red list of countries, which means the group will be put into quarantine upon their arrival in the UK.
The Daily Mail spoke to a 37-year-old former interpreter called Hash, who served in Helmand with the Army between 2007 and 2012 and is reported to be part of the first party along with his wife and two sons.
“We are so happy and so thankful,” he was quoted as saying. “The British government has taken its time but it has done the right thing and we are truly grateful.”