UK govt aims to relocate 2,500 Afghan translators and families

London, United Kingdom Updated: Aug 04, 2021, 10:36 PM IST


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Home Secretary Priti Patel and Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said they were committed to relocating the families of 500 members of the support staff who support British troops in Afghanistan 

The UK government said on Wednesday it aimed to resettle hundreds of more Afghan translators and their families, after criticism from former military top brass it was not doing enough.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel said they were committed to relocating the families of 500 staff who supported British troops in Afghanistan "as soon as possible", some 2,500 individuals in total.

The pledge came after published criticism from senior defence figures, urging a review of the relocation scheme in the face of escalating violence in Afghanistan and threats to former local staff.

"There has been considerable misreporting of the scheme in the media, feeding the impression the Government is not supporting our former and current Afghan staff," Wallace and Patel wrote.

"This could not be further from the truth and since the US announced its withdrawal we have been at the forefront of nations relocating people," they added.

In response to pressure following the announcement of a US military withdrawal from Afghanistan,  the UK accelerated its relocation scheme for Afghan local staff in May.

Since the expansion was announced, 1,400 Afghan staff and their families had been relocated, equalling the total number resettled in Britain since 2014.

Six former heads of the UK armed forces and other senior military figures voiced concern in a letter to The Times last week that Afghan staff had been rejected for a relocation because of security concerns.

Often these individuals were deemed ineligible because they were dismissed from service.

The ministers asserted they needed to ensure a "balance between generosity and security" and would now offer relocation to 264 members of Afghan staff who were dismissed for a "relatively minor administrative offence". 

Of these, they said, 121 individuals in that category have already been offered relocation.

The Taliban on Wednesday claimed responsibility for Tuesday's deadly bomb and gun attack on the capital, Kabul, amid a wider assault by the Islamist group on a string of provincial capitals.

Regular reprisals against Afghan and interpreters and their families have escalated as the Taliban have seized vast swathes of the countryside in the weeks following the withdrawal announcement.

As humanitarian displacement from the conflict increases, the UK also said it would make further changes to its rules to allow former Afghan staff and their families to make applications for relocation outside Afghanistan.