Legal Evidence

Court evidence for Afghan former interpreters who claim asylum

Over the years, members of the Sulha Alliance have given evidence in several court cases across the country in support of Afghan interpreters, who found themselves at the mercy of the asylum system. The interpreters had sought asylum as they had not fulfilled the very exact requirements of the Ex Gratia Scheme, which had excluded most of the interpreters.

Colonel (Retired) Simon Diggins OBE, in particular, has been approached several times by fellow veterans, refugee organisations, lawyers and former interpreters, to offer his expertise on: the security situation in Afghanistan in general, the specific threats faced by Afghan military interpreters, and also the local threats in Kabul; the significance of that last been that so-called 'security advice' to our former interpreters is that they can 'hide in plain sight' in the capital. This is manifest nonsense, belied by the prevalent violence in Kabul and it is now accepted that Kabul is not to be regarded as an Internal Place of Refuge (IPR).

Thanks to the supporting evidence, given by Colonel Diggins and others, negative decisions on asylum cases are overturned. In fact, to date, in all cases where this evidence has been given, Home Office deportations have been stopped and refuge, in UK, given. This demonstrates the importance of expert evidence in the assessment of the asylum claims of Afghan former interpreters as rarely are asylum tribunal judges familiar with the specific threats faced by former LEC based on their employment history with British Armed forces.

While always sympathetic to the claims of former interpreters, the Sulha Alliance is very conscious of its legal obligations when offering evidence in Court. We draw therefore on supporting guidelines from the UNHCR, EASO and the Home Office, all of which recognise that Afghan interpreters are a specific target for insurgents, and use the UNAMA Reports on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict for its statistics on violence.

Despite this solid evidence base, we see too many instances of interpreters who initially face rejections of their asylum claims and/or long waiting times for a decision, which creates significant hardship and puts their lives on hold.

Sulha Alliance Co-founder Peter Gordon Finlayson appeared in court in support of his former interpreter

As reported in the Independent, in 2017, Sulha Alliance Co-founder Peter Gordon Finlayson appeared in court in support of his former interpreter.

Mr H., who had served the British Army between 2010 and 2012, and who had spent several years working for Nato forces prior to that, was due to be deported imminently. His removal from the UK was halted after the High Court ordered he be released from detention.

Peter Gordon Finlayson, who knew Mr H. while working as a captain on the front line in Helmand, recalls: "I had a busy day and I thought, I [can't really go], but I feel so strongly about this that I've got to cancel all meetings and I'm going to go. [G]et your medals. Get your regimental tie, we're going. And so we went and we turned up at the courthouse."

“All of our interpreters were an integral part of our team. They came out on the ground on patrol with us. They shared the same dangers that we did. They were instrumental in helping us form a clearer understanding of the battle picture."

“We are very lucky in that we came home and under the military covenant were able to enjoy support for any psychological difficulties we might have had. Poor H. spent much longer going through the same things we did, but he’s not had any of that support that was awarded to us."