During the United Kingdom’s involvement in Afghanistan, British forces were supported by some 7,000 locally employed civilians (LECs), about half of whom fulfilled vital roles as interpreters. Serving alongside—and for—the British military, Afghan interpreters and other LECs were often exposed to extremely dangerous situations. There is a broad consensus that the UK owes them a great ‘debt of gratitude’. This consensus has included the UK Government, which claims to have honoured that debt through two schemes established for LECs who served in Afghanistan:
i)The Redundancy Scheme. This gives benefits in Afghanistan to those LECs who were employed in frontline roles on the date that the UK Government announced the drawdown of British forces in Afghanistan (19 December 2012) and who had worked for 12 months or more. However, the option of relocation to the UK has been made available only to those LECs who meet those criteria and also served on the front line in Helmand for a minimum of 12 months.
ii)The Intimidation Scheme. This is, in theory, open to all LECs; but its focus has overwhelmingly been on solutions inside Afghanistan—either in the form of security advice or through internal relocations. Relocation to the UK has been treated as a matter of last resort. Remarkably and regrettably, not one single interpreter (or other LEC) has successfully been relocated to the UK under the Scheme as implemented so far.
Both Schemes have been the subject of substantial criticism from the media, former Service personnel and from LECs themselves. Critics have spoken of former interpreters and other LECs being ‘abandoned’ by the UK Government and have alleged that many of them resorted to using people-smugglers in order to escape the revenge of the Taliban. The Redundancy Scheme has attracted criticism for the allegedly ‘arbitrary’ nature of the cut-off date; whilst the failure to relocate anyone at all under the terms of Intimidation Scheme has been roundly condemned.
In the light of these criticisms, the Defence Committee, in this and the previous Parliament, has examined the effectiveness of both schemes. We wanted to assess whether they operate effectively and whether they discharge our country’s debt sufficiently.
This is not just a matter of honour. How we behave now will send a message to interpreters and other LECs—whom we are likely to need in future military campaigns—about whether we can be trusted to protect them from the threat of reprisals at the hands of our enemies.
On the Redundancy Scheme, our report finds that:
The situation in respect of the Intimidation Scheme is incomparably worse. Our report finds that:
Published: 26 May 2018