Vision


Read our latest responses to policy changes on our Media Engagement page or follow us on Twitter.

Our vision is for a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution that encompasses:

  • Providing sanctuary to all our former interpreters and their families in the UK, who need and want it. To be welcomed, recognised, honoured and fully integrated into UK society

  • To enable former interpreters to thrive in their post-service lives in Afghanistan or the UK



The Sulha Alliance responds to the injustices and challenges faced by Afghan former interpreters

  • 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

Background

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).

Around 455 interpreters and their families now live in the UK through the Ex-Gratia scheme.

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 Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy was launched in April 2021 to replace the previous Intimidation Scheme.

The scheme is delivered by the MOD in the new Afghan Threat and Risk Evaluation Unit (ATREU) in the British Embassy Kabul.

Any current or former Locally Employed Staff assessed to be at serious risk of threat to life will be offered priority relocation to the UK regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served. Local staff who work or worked in the public eye and who could be at risk as the security situation evolves will be relocated to the UK on a routine basis, and those not eligible to move will be offered other support such as security advice and relocation within Afghanistan.

If any current or former staff believe they now qualify or are at serious risk, they should contact MOD representatives in Kabul at localstaff-afghanistan@mod.gov.uk or on 0792 907 303.

There are four categories under the ARAP (more details on the UK Gov website)

Category 1: High risk / imminent threat: Urgent relocation

Category 2: Eligible for relocation by default: Routine relocation

Category 3: Not eligible for relocation: Other support offered

Category 4: Special cases: Case-by-case basis


LES who meet the eligibility criteria for relocation under the ARAP scheme will have the opportunity to apply for limited leave to enter the UK under the Immigration Rules (HC 395). Successful applicants will receive a UK visa, which grants 5 years Leave to Enter the UK, with an opportunity in the future to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK at the end of that 5-year period. Eligible LES will be able to bring certain family members with them to the UK. The details of which family members can be brought with eligible LES are set out in the Immigration Rules (HC 395).

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."