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Afghan Interpreter Who Saved Lives Of British Soldiers Stranded In Calais As He Tries To Cross Border To UK

27/08/2015 20:19 BST | Updated 27/08/2015 20:59 BST

An ex-soldier has set up a Crowdfunder campaign to raise money for an Afghan interpreter he served with in Helmand, who is currently stuck in Calais trying to make it across the border to the UK.

George Tyldesley was introduced to Khushal when he was serving in the Infantry in Afghanistan, where the soldiers used local interpreters to help them. Khushal was quickly nicknamed Happy for the cheerfulness with which he went about dangerous work.

"He always went the extra mile," said Tyldesley, adding: "On our first patrol he even offered to dig up IEDs for us!"

george and happy

Ex-soldier George Tyldesley with Afghan Interpreter Happy

According to Tyldesley, Happy saved the lives of British soldiers on more than one occasion.

"On one patrol in particular," Tyldesley writes, "While we were returning from looking for a Taliban cache, Happy drew my attention to some suspicious movement up ahead. We were walking along a compound wall at the time, so I asked my point man to cut away from the wall and across a field.

"When we passed the end of the wall, the Taliban detonated a command-wire IED that could easily have killed three of us, myself included - and would have done, but for the fact we had changed course. In effect, Happy saved the life of a number of British soldiers with that one action alone."

Unfortunately Happy's determination to do the right thing went against him, when he was asked to carry a weapon to protect himself during an interpreting job. Happy did as he was told, and defended his life by firing against the Taliban.

This made him unpopular with other interpreters, who were jealous of his success, and eventually forced him out of his job. Tyldesley explains that Happy lives in a Taliban-controlled hometown, and the news had travelled that he had assisted in the attack.

"The local Talibs ordered his family to reject him and tell them his location," said Tyldesley. "When they did not comply, they killed Happy’s older brother."

"Happy’s mother blamed him for the death and has refused to speak to him since: the rest of his family cannot risk talking to him for fear of the Taliban: and even in Kabul, he was a hunted man."

Happy applied to be given a VISA for the UK, but he did not qualify as he had not been serving at the end of 2012. Tyldesley suggests that Happy should have been looked after under another scheme that was put in place to protect interpreters who were suffering intimidation.

The process of applying for the VISA took almost 18 months, during which time Happy was living in fear. Tyldesley said: "To pass the criteria for intimidation, the officials needed to carry out checks in his home area. However, his home village was far too dangerous for the British or Afghan officials to visit. So Happy was caught in an endless and ridiculous catch-22!

"I wrote a number of letters in support of his application but nothing was done. Eventually, the situation became critical and in the freezing middle of winter, Happy began the incredibly long and arduous journey from Afghanistan to Europe."

Tyldesley's Crowdfunder page lists the incidents that have contributed towards the ordeal that Happy has been through. Including: being shot at by bandits and robbed by migrants in Baluchistan, being kidnapped and imprisoned in Iran, having his feet lacerated for crossing the border in Turkey, almost drowning on a migrant boat on the way to Greece, and being beaten by the police in Italy.

He is now stuck in Calais. Unable to get to the UK, Happy sees no other way but to cross the border illegally.

So far, Tyldesley's Crowdfunder has raised almost £7,000, smashing the original £5,000 target. He told Huffington Post UK: "Happy is going to use the money to pay back a friend who sold a field to fund the first stage of his journey. He's going to use what's left for accommodation and training once he gets to the UK."

He has also set up a Change.org petition, in hope of triggering a debate about the state of aftercare for interpreters in parliament.

When Tyldesley visited Happy at the camp in Calais on Thursday, he said that Happy had cut his hand on the barbed wire, so his recent attempts at making the treacherous crossing had failed.

"It's pretty divest sting to have to leave him there but because the whole thing has become so public I can hardly risk bringing him back myself," said Tyldesley.