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Voices: I was an interpreter for British troops in Afghanistan – the way the government is treating allies is shameful

The Independent logo The Independent 31/03/2023 Rafi Hottak
GettyImages-1234796750 (1).jpg © MoD Crown Copyright via Getty Im GettyImages-1234796750 (1).jpg

The plight of Afghan allies seeking asylum in the UK is a complex and pressing issue.

These individuals, including members of specialised units such as the Triples and the National Directorate of Security (NDS), as well as pilots, have played a crucial role in the UK mission in Afghanistan.

They have courageously fought alongside British soldiers against the Taliban, contributing significantly to counter-terrorism efforts, and engaging in actions such as targeting, eliminating, and capturing militants.

It is deeply concerning that the UK government has failed to provide safe and legal asylum routes for its Afghan allies, leaving them with no choice but to embark on dangerous, unauthorized journeys to reach the UK.

Consequently, the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme has seen a backlog of cases waiting for up to 18 months, with many direct employees of the UK armed forces and other allies facing rejection despite the genuine threats to their lives.

The recent news that an Afghan pilot, who honourably served the British and NATO mission in Afghanistan, faces potential deportation to Rwanda, a nation with a history of human rights violations, is a distressing development. The UK Home Office’s decision has sparked outrage, and it is crucial for the UK government to recognize its responsibility to protect its Afghan allies.


I am scheduled to meet with Stephen Kinnock, the Labour shadow minister for immigration, to address the plight of Afghan allies and the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan. It is imperative for the UK government to uphold its moral duty to protect its allies by providing safe and legal pathways for them to seek asylum.

Afghan asylum cases should be handled with empathy and consideration, given the grave risks faced by former Afghan government employees and Nato allies at the hands of the Taliban. While the UK government participated in the September 2021 evacuation of Afghanistan, many Afghan allies were left behind.

In comparison to the US’s evacuation of nearly 120,000 Afghans, the UK government has only evacuated around 20,000 individuals, including those with no direct or indirect affiliation with the UK mission in Afghanistan.

The UK government must rise to the occasion and offer a secure haven for its Afghan allies. Deporting them to countries with a history of human rights violations is not only morally reprehensible but also a violation of the government’s obligation to protect those who served alongside British soldiers in Afghanistan.

It is crucial for the UK government to take swift action to fulfill its moral responsibility towards its Afghan allies.

Mohammad Rafi Hottak is an activist who previously worked as an interpreter for the British army in Afghanistan

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