Has the UK Government learnt anything from Iraq? Déjà vie...

#1
Interested on the wider readership's take on the following.

This evening, Channel 4 News led with a report from Nick Paton-Walsh in Afghanistan relating to locally employed interpreters.

Unlike those on TELIC, I can't comment from personal involvement, but on the face of it, Nick's report does seem to have several parallels to the situation facing those in Iraq.

And for the "all journos are *******" brigade, simmer down. I, and others noted througout the years of getting the UK Government to adopt policies that acknowledged the risk to Iraqis employed by HMG, that Channel 4's coverage was well researched, and in particular Nick Paton-Walsh was scrupulous in ensuring that his reports were accurate.

So, have we learnt and applied the lessons of the TELIC experience where local nationals are involved, or are we about to witness a classic military Déjà vie?

It seemed unlikely that it could be happening again. But it was.

After Iraq, where months of pressure from the media and serving soldiers meant that translators working for the British army and facing regular threats from the Iraqi insurgency were eventually offered the chance of asylum in the UK, it seemed impossible a similar situation could be recurring here in Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks here, we've been interviewing former interpreters for the British Army. All served in Helmand. Some were injured at work.

One man, Yusuf, who lost his eye and teeth in an explosion in Helmand on 3 June, told us how he was shipped out of British care on Camp Bastion after five days and sent to an Afghan army hospital in Kandahar.

There, doctors found on his unconscious person (he was in a coma for 22 days) his uncle's number. They rang it. And after eight days, Yusuf's family finally knew where he was. They then took him to Kabul where he says he paid for his own medical care.

The story that followed, which he told us edgily in his uncle's house (he's scared to go home at the moment, was about his regular trips to Camp Souter, the British base where he was hired.

He asked for his salary at first, monies earned while working in Helmand. He got that. Then he asked for compensation, or his medical bills to be covered, or the sick pay normally given. He didn't get that.

He went back again and again. Doctors looked at his wounds and did what they could, but still he didn’t get a prosthetic eye or new teeth, or any treatment, he says.

Nearly six months and nothing, bar, he says, the occasional gruff comment that he wasn't owed anything. This Saturday, a few days after we'd interviewed him – Yusuf was paid two months' sick pay. $1200. And that's all he's seen since losing his job and his shot at a normal life.

What seems to pain him most are the promises: the promise of medical care he says he got when he joined up; the promise of a prosthetic eye a very senior British officer appears to have made in a letter to him; the promise of money that still, after all the contact with him the British have had, has simply not come.

Yusuf's not one to keep quiet, and he was the only interpreter we talked to prepared to speak openly on camera. His story carried: other interpreters were furious about it. Eight, we were told, quit in protest at his treatment.

They were also angered at the alleged abandoning of the body of another interpreter, Tariq, earlier this year, on the battlefield. One of them we spoke to Habib, let's call him, said he was not being treated as a human being. "I'm thinking they just treat us like a slave."

He says the resignations have now left the British Army in Helmand with lesser quality translators. And he said it in pretty good English, replete with soldiers drawl and idioms.

The Ministry of Defence didn't take issue with how Yusuf was treated, and said that his being sent to an Afghan army hospital was standard practice. They said they didn't think there had been that many resignations (we've spoken to four of the eight, who all say the same thing). They insisted they would pay Yusuf compensation and for his medical expenses.

But this is just the complaints about mistreatment. There's another broader issue we came across. These men are terrified of the Taliban. One we interviewed was kidnapped by them in Pakistan and tortured for two months.

His captors seemed to know everything about him, how he had travelled to Peshawar for routine surgery, where he had worked. They made him pay a ransom and promise to given them the addresses of other interpreters for Nato.

When we saw him he hadn't seen his family for 21 days, as he was afraid he'd lead the Taliban to them. He had reason to be afraid. Two men on a motorbike drove up to him in the street days before we met and gave him a letter, reminding him the Taliban were still waiting for those addresses.

The stories of fear of the Taliban were universal, as was knowledge of the death of one interpreter, apparently beheaded on the road to Kandahar. The men we spoke to, many of them had heard of the LEC programme enacted by the MoD for Iraqi interpreters. They wondered why they weren't eligible for the same thing.

The MoD had this to say about whether Afghans working as interpreters had the right to asylum claims in the UK.

We take our responsibilities towards locally employed staff in Afghanistan very seriously and have put in place a number of measures to reduce the risks they face. The scheme established for our locally employed Iraqi staff reflected our judgement at the time that the circumstances in which they had served the UK had been uniquely difficult. The same conditions do not currently apply in Afghanistan.
 
#2
Having seen what happened in Iraq, it doesn't surprise me one bit. It's details like this that would make it hard for me to re-join if I was offered the chance.
 
#3
First question,NO :twisted:
" reply It would not at this point in time be hard to say no :wink:
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#4
Utterly shaming.

All I can say is that it is a pity the reporter did not name names: It can't have been difficult to find the unit he was with, who hired him, and what his contract said. I am reminded of Stephen Grey's piece (posted on ARRSE) stating the promise, once a Helmand town had been retaken, that the mosque, destroyed in an air strike, would be rebuilt. Two years later, work has not even started.

If this is the way our country keeps its promises, we won't win - and won't deserve to.
 
#5
Hello all - sorry for random post but we are doing a piece on Afghans working for the UK in Afghanistan as interpreters... anyone able to comment on their experiences, particularly when it comes to the aftercare given to interpreters injured in the field... we've heard some pretty harrowing stories.
you can reach me on nick dot walsh at i t n dot co dot uk
thanks
 
#6
Hello all - Nick PAton Walsh from Channel Four NEws - sorry for random post but we are doing another piece on Afghans working for the UK in Afghanistan as interpreters... anyone able to comment on their experiences, particularly when it comes to the aftercare given to interpreters injured in the field... in Helmand
we've heard some pretty harrowing stories.
you can reach me on nick dot walsh at i t n dot co dot uk
thanks
 
#7
And before people start giving it the "feck off journo" - perhaps worth reminding readers that Nick is the journalist from Channel 4 News who broke the plight of Iraqi translators and interpreters to British viewers, that eventually led to the launch of the LEC Scheme.

Can reassure all that Nick is very professional. Please assist him as much as DIN's and your experience can.

AB
 
#9
ABrighter2006 said:
And before people start giving it the "feck off journo" - perhaps worth reminding readers that Nick is the journalist from Channel 4 News who broke the plight of Iraqi translators and interpreters to British viewers, that eventually led to the launch of the LEC Scheme.

Can reassure all that Nick is very professional. Please assist him as much as DIN's and your experience can.

AB
IIRC DIN's are not to be released without authority... And contact with the media is always frowned upon.

And no im not giving it "feck off journo" just a hint of information security
 
#10
messed_up said:
[IIRC DIN's are not to be released without authority...
I think that this particular DIN has been officially released for public information, in which case it would not be a breach to mention it here.
 

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