interpreters and other local staff have been left behind in Afghanistan, in limbo waiting for a Plan B from the British Government
interpreters who fled Afghanistan following threats to their lives have been stuck since years in refugee camps in other countries
interpreters who are in the UK are still separated from their families and children without clear prospect of reunification
interpreters who have settled in the UK have limited access to appropriate social, integration and mental health support
British forces employed around 7,000 Afghan local staff during their mission in Afghanistan, known as locally employed civilians (LECs). About half of LECs were interpreters, who accompanied troops on patrols, and assisted with intelligence, contact with the local community, and cultural advice. LECs faced risks during their employment, with several local military interpreters sustaining serious injuries, for instance through improvised explosive devices (IEDs). After the British military drawdown, they continued to face danger, because insurgents would target them as 'traitors', because of their work for Western forces.
In April 2021, the new Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy was launched. While some applicants have been brought to safety in the UK over the past months, many eligible applicants have been left behind in Afghanistan.
The Ex-Gratia (Redundancy) Scheme
The Ex-Gratia Redundancy Scheme was introduced in 2013 and will close in November 2022.
It offers one of three packages: 1) a Financial Offer 2) a Training Offer or 3) an Offer for Relocation to the UK.
Initially, the Scheme was only open to LECs who were made redundant as a direct consequence of the UK’s military drawdown from Afghanistan. In 2018, the Scheme was expanded to include those who were made redundant on or after 1 May 2006 with 12 months or more continuous service outside the wire on the frontline mostly in Helmand.
In December 2020, the relocation scheme was expanded to LECs who resigned on or after 1 May 2006 with at least 12 months service outside the wire on the frontline (mostly in Helmand).
Under the Ex-Gratia Scheme, the responsibility for the provision of accommodation and integration support was referred to local authorities in England, Scotland and Wales, which could work independently or provide services together with ‘delivery partners’ (e.g. private housing associations, refugee third sector organisations, and arms-length management organisations).
The profile of the local authorities involved in the Ex-Gratia scheme varies widely: rural/urban; no to ample experience with relocation of refugees; and number of LECs hosted (e.g. North West (85); Glasgow (65); South Ayrshire (20); Monmouthshire (20); Plymouth (20); Newcastle (35). Information provided by the MoD, based on their records dated 29 March 2019/ FOI2019/04273). This impacts the experience of former LECs in terms of differential access to employment and educational opportunities, culturally-appropriate food, and religious services.
The Intimidation Scheme
On the 1st of April 2021, the Intimidation Scheme was replaced by the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy.
The Intimidation Scheme offered support to all LECs (regardless of length of employment, location, or role), who are concerned about their safety because of their previous employment with the United Kingdom in Afghanistan.
The Intimidation Investigation Unit (IIU) in Kabul assessesed the security needs and can offer one of the following responses: 1) security advice 2) funded relocation within Afghanistan or 3) relocation to the UK.
In 2017, the Intimidation Scheme had already received more than 400 claims. The assessment of none of these, however, led to international relocation.
In 2018, a report by the House of Commons Select Committee concluded: "The Intimidation Scheme, in its current form, has dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection. The scheme suffers from perceptions that it is unfair and miserly and provides insufficient protection for LECs living in what the UK Government has itself conceded is a ‘dangerous and volatile place’. Such perceptions will persist until the Intimidation Scheme offers a genuine prospect that, when individuals face serious and verifiable threats to their lives, as a result of having helped UK armed forces, they will be allowed to come to the UK."