Afghan Interpreters Asylum Refusal 'Wholly Unacceptable'

Refusing to grant asylum to Afghan interpreters who served alongside UK forces is "wholly unacceptable", the chairman of the defence committee has said.

Julian Lewis MP has written to Defence Secretary Michael Fallon to call for around 200 translators to be allowed to live in the UK, saying many faced a "clear and present threat" in Afghanistan.

The Tory MP added the defence committee's voice to recent calls from former head of the Army, General Sir Richard Dannatt, and more than 167,000 people who have signed an online petition.

In the letter, Mr Lewis said: "As you know, some 200 Afghan interpreters worked for UK Armed Forces during our mission in Afghanistan. Many of them have been threatened with death by the Taliban.

"It was recently reported that at least one interpreter has been tortured and murdered after a failed attempt to flee the country. Others live in constant fear of their lives. Despite this clear and present threat to their safety, the Government continues to deny them asylum in the United Kingdom.

"The defence committee consider this to be a wholly unacceptable way to treat proven friends and allies. We would expect defence ministers and the Ministry of Defence to take the same robust view."

He also told the Daily Mail: "As the letter indicates, there is a very strong feeling among my defence committee colleagues on a cross-party basis that these extremely brave individuals and their families must be protected, both as a matter of honour and if we ever wish to receive similar help from local people in war zones in the future."

Major James Driscoll, who launched the petition two weeks ago, said the Government has a moral duty to help the interpreters, who have helped save many British lives.

In July, the former interpreters lost a High Court battle to access a Government assistance scheme that is not available to staff who left British employment before December 2012.

The terms of the scheme means interpreters who completed their duties between 2006 and 2012 are not eligible for refuge in the UK unless they can prove they face violence from the Taliban in their home country.