Campaigners have petitioned Downing Street to permit Afghan interpreters who worked with British forces to resettle in the United Kingdom.
The signers, many of them British combat veterans, say that if the interpreters are forced to remain in Afghanistan, they face almost certain death at the hands of the Taliban and its allies.
The late Prime Minister Winston Churchill's great-grandson, Maj. Alexander Perkins, led a group of former Army majors in delivering the 60,000-signature petition to Prime Minister David Cameron’s office.
London is offering resettlement to about half of the 1,200 Afghan staff who were employed for more than a year and working for the British on Dec. 19, 2012, when Cameron announced a "drawdown" of British forces in Afghanistan.
The exact number who worked as interpreters is unknown. But the Ministry of Defense said that about 550 of the 1,100 local staff now working for the British government in Afghanistan were interpreters, and that “many thousands” had worked for Britain in some capacity since the 2001 invasion.
Current British policy “leaves hundreds of other interpreters who left their job before that date with no help at all,” according to BBC correspondent Jonathan Beale
He said these include men who may have “risked the bombs and bullets of Helmand [province] serving alongside British soldiers” and men “who may have had good reason to leave their job because of threats from the Taliban.”
The Defense Ministry says there's a separate initiative offering assistance to anyone who worked for the British and who is facing intimidation. But thus far, only one Afghan has been permitted to resettle in Britain under this program.
Maj. James Driscoll, another former officer behind the resettlement campaign, said interpreters had taken "great risks to both to themselves and their families" to help British troops.
"By denying entry into the U.K., the government is condemning them and their families to persecution and almost certain death," he said.
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