Media Engagement

2021

ROLAND OLIPHANT and BEN FARMER FOR THE TELEGRAPH, 31 August 2021

The Sulha alliance, a British NGO that supports Afghan interpreters, said it was in touch with “several” interpreters and other local staff who had no safe place of refuge in Kabul.


“They desperately need more specific information from HMG on where they should go and what they should do,” said Sara de Jong, a senior lecturer at the University of York and one of the co-founders of the group. “Should they go to any third country they can reach, and who should they notify if they manage? They should not be left in this dangerous limbo for much longer, especially with many of them having applied to ARAP many months ago.”

MARY FITZGERALD FOR THE GUARDIAN, 26 August 2021

[W]hile Wallace and Patel spoke this month of their “huge debt of gratitude” to interpreters and other Afghan partners, networks such as the Sulha Alliance point out that many thousands of eligible evacuees are still missing from official government figures, with days or even hours left to close the gap.

Advocacy and legal groups are still reporting countless cases of interpreters being (wrongly) told they are not eligible because they were sub-contractors, or were fired for minor administrative breaches, or because they are deemed a “security risk” – despite having already passed vetting to work with British soldiers on the battlefield, many risking their lives for years.

LARISA BROWN & CHARLIE FAULKNER FOR THE TIMES, 18 August 2021

Charlie Herbert, a former major-general who was a commander of UK troops in Afghanistan and is helping Afghans get on to flights with the Sulha Alliance group of campaigners, said he believed no more than 20 per cent of the hundreds of people with whom they had been in touch had been evacuated.


He said that it was "increasingly apparent that the first waves of Afghan evacuations have favoured the wellconnected, rather than the vulnerable". He said: "Are they really more deserving than those who worked alongside the army in Helmand?"

MARC NICOL and DAVID WILLIAMS FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 19 August 2021

Christian Nelleman, head of the group providing intelligence to the UN, said that a Taliban door-to-door hunt was under way for people on their wanted list and warned it could lead to mass executions.

He said: 'They have lists of individuals and even within the very first hours of moving into Kabul they began a search of former government employees – especially in intelligence services and the special forces units.

Ed Aitken, a founding member of the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for the rights of interpreters, warned: 'These brave and deserving men cannot be left behind.'

RACHAEL SCHRAER, BBC, 18 August 2021

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme, launched on 1 April, was designed to resettle interpreters and other people who worked for the UK in Afghanistan.


And the Home Office says it has resettled 2,000 former Afghan staff and their families in the UK, since 22 June. The target is 5,000 by the end of this year under this scheme. Just over 1,000 people have also been resettled in the UK since 2013 under a previous scheme called the Ex-Gratia Policy.


But not all who have applied to the scheme have been accepted, according to the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for the rights of Afghan interpreters. A 2018 Defence Committee report found: "British forces were supported by some 7,000 Afghans, known as locally employed (or engaged) civilians (LECs)."

SIMON DIGGINS, 18 August 2021

The United States’ own evacuation mission, Allies Refuge, was launched in early July and in contrast to the British approach accepted that those claiming sanctuary would have to be evacuated before their applications could be processed.

The UK missed this opportunity. As late as last Saturday, the Sulha Alliance campaign to resettle Afghan interpreters (of which I am a co-founder) was still in detailed conversations with MoD officials about Afghan nationals who were being denied protection. As an example, one individual, [...] who had worked for us for years had his visa revoked, allegedly for having links to the Taliban.

Afghanistan is a country where it is normal for there to be only two degrees of separation between most of the population, so most people will have some ‘links’ to the group. But putting this to one side, his alleged offences have not been explained to him [...], nor is there any opportunity to appeal.

SIMON DIGGINS, BBC, 17 August 2021

Afghan interpreters and other local staff are in a significant degree of danger at the moment. [...] We have very good evidence of what you might call list taking going on. So the Taliban may be low level commanders knocking on people's door asking if anybody worked for NATO. And given the situation you will not be surprised to hear that faced with that, people who have worked for us in the past, have fled their homes. [...] If an individual has a reasonably plausible set of paperwork or details, then we should move them out of danger first and worry about the processing of paperwork later.

DAVID WILLIAMS, 16 August 2021

Then there are the 1,010 translators who had their contracts ‘terminated’ without right of appeal. No fired translator was considered for relocation even if they claimed they were Taliban targets.

But under pressure from the Mail and the Sulha Alliance, which helps Afghan workers for the UK, Mr Wallace — a former soldier who has done more to enable Afghans to relocate than any of his predecessors — recently relaxed the policy so those dismissed for ‘minor offences’ qualify.

DANIELLE SHERIDAN FOR THE TELEGRAPH, 3 August 2021

Ed Aitken, a former captain and co-founder of the Sulha Alliance, an Afghan interpreters campaign group, said it received dozens of messages every day from terrified former interpreters and locally employed staff who were trapped in Lashkar Gah.


"They have sent us videos of Taliban fighters going from house to house searching for anyone who worked for the British," Mr Aitken said. "The Taliban are not discriminating between the nuances of employment. Anyone who worked with British forces will be killed mercilessly."


He warned the UK would risk "blood on their hands" if it failed to "adapt their policies quickly to keep up with the changing situation and make the relocation scheme far more generous".

DAVID WILLIAMS AND MARC NICOL, 3 August 2021

His family have bravely and loyally overseen security at the British Embassy in Kabul for 70 years. Mohammad followed in the footsteps of his father and brothers in becoming a guard, security supervisor and translator over the two decades [...].

Mohammad was told his case was rejected because he was no longer directly employed by the British Government but via a subcontractor. He had been directly employed between 2001 and 2004, but when the UK moved its embassy, he and his colleagues were subcontracted, meaning they fell outside the relocations policy.

Mohammad's case has been taken up by the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for translators and other Afghan workers. Founding member Sara de Jong said: 'How can the Government deny Mohammad our protection through relocation to the UK? This demonstrates a major flaw in the Afghan relocation policy.'

LARISA BROWN FOR THE TIMES, 31 July 2021

The interpreters at the embassy help with the Afghan relocations and assistance policy (ARAP) [...]. The team were originally rejected from the scheme themselves because they did not work directly for the government.


Details of their plight surfaced after a group of 45 former military officers and officials wrote to the prime minister to urge the government to allow more Afghans into Britain. The Sulha Alliance campaign group said about 450 Afghans, including 130 interpreters, had contacted them after being rejected.


Colonel Simon Diggins, former defence attaché at the British embassy in Kabul, said on behalf of the Alliance: "By working for us, they indubitably put their lives at risk and, with Taliban advances, these risks are increasing. I cannot believe therefore that someone is trying to split hairs and exclude them from the new policy."

DAVID WILLIAMS AND MARC NICOL, 31 July 2021

The plight of those employed through subcontractors was one of the issues in the letter to Boris Johnson, which warned that Britain faces 'dishonour' if those who served are left to be murdered by the Taliban. It was coordinated by the Sulha Alliance, campaigning for translators and other Afghan workers.

Founding member Sara de Jong said: 'We were dismayed to find out that the long-serving British embassy interpreters are excluded from the resettlement scheme, because they are subcontracted.

'Not only do they work on behalf of the British state, they are extremely exposed as their job requires them to move outside the gates of the embassy compound. The compelling case of the embassy interpreters illustrates the wider structural injustices that result from the UK Government trying to absolve itself of responsibility for its Afghan staff by using third party contractors.'

JAMES KNUCKEY & CLAIRE SADLER FOR FORCES.NET, 28 July 2021

Simon Diggins, from the Sulha Alliance that campaigns for Afghan interpreters, said: "We took on some 2,500 interpreters between 2001 and 2014, 35% of them were dismissed for disciplinary reasons. The figure is just staggering because it suggests to us that actually dismissal, which should be the absolute last resort for removing somebody, was being used almost casually as an HR tool.

"Whatever happened there and then, does it justify them being excluded now from sanctuary in the United Kingdom? Because [...] the Taliban don't care that they were dismissed, all the Taliban care about is that they worked for the British or worked for the Americans. Let’s look at these individuals again, let's have a fair and transparent system."

BBC NEWS, 28 July 2021 - Let more Afghan interpreters resettle in UK, say ex-military chiefs
CHANNEL 4 NEWS, 28 July 2021 - Former generals urge government to allow more Afghan interpreters to settle in UK
BBC WORLD NEWS, 28 July 2021
TIMES RADIO, 28 July 2021
ELENI COUREA & LARISA BROWN FOR THE TIMES, 28 July 2021

Former military chiefs have warned that a relocation scheme for Afghans who supported British troops during the conflict is not fit for purpose, with hundreds denied sanctuary in the UK. The group of 45 retired military officers and officials said the government's relocation scheme was "not being conducted with the required spirit of generosity and urgency" and urged the prime minister to review it.


Campaigners, including the Sulha Alliance, which has taken up the plight of Afghan interpreters, have said the policy should be more generous. Ed Aitken, a former captain and co-founder of the alliance, said that about 450 Afghans who had worked for the British had told the group they had been rejected. The MoD has refused to disclose how many applicants have been excluded, citing "operational security reasons" in response to a parliamentary question submitted by Johnny Mercer, the former Tory minister for veterans.

DAVID WILLIAMS AND MARC NICOL, 28 July 2021

More than 40 military chiefs today urge Boris Johnson to speed up the relocation of interpreters from Afghanistan.

The officers, including former Army chief Lord Dannatt and former special forces leader Brigadier Ed Butler, argue the criteria should be less onerous. Meeting all the criteria can be impossible because of missing paperwork. The British embassy in Kabul, which administers the ARAP, is short staffed, leading to delays and clerical errors when dealing with the huge caseload.

The Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for the former interpreters [...] has details of 450 cases refused under ARAP because they were terminated, did not work in an 'exposed' role or were not directly employed by the UK government. The Daily Mail is aware of additional cases.

LUCY FISHER FOR THE TELEGRAPH, 28 July 2021

Boris Johnson should allow thousands more Afghans who worked with British forces to relocate to the UK urgently, eight former chiefs of staff who were in charge during the Afghanistan conflict have said.


So far 2,200 Afghans, including former translators, staff and close relatives, have been given help to build new lives in Britain [...]. But the Sulha Alliance, an Afghan interpreters' campaign group, estimate that British forces employed more than 3,000 translators and 4,000 other staff, meaning there are thousands more remaining who are potentially at risk.


The military chiefs insist in their open letter, sent yesterday, that all former interpreters and other Afghan staff should be allowed to seek sanctuary in the UK, unless they pose a threat to security. "We urge the Government to act immediately," they wrote. "Time is of the utmost essence to save the lives of those who served alongside our servicemen and women in Afghanistan and who saved countless British lives."

JONATHAN BEALE FOR THE BBC, 28 July 2021

Dozens of former military commanders have called on the government to allow more Afghans who worked for British forces to resettle in the UK.

Those who have signed the letter include four former chiefs of the defence staff, Lord Boyce, Lord Stirrup, Lord Richards and Lord Houghton; two former heads of the British Army, Sir Peter Wall and Lord Dannatt; Lord Ricketts, the former national security advisor, and former Defence Minister Johnny Mercer, who served as a soldier in Helmand.

The Sulha Alliance, which is campaigning for the rights of former Afghan interpreters [...] claims the government only expects to relocate a maximum of 800 interpreters and their families under the ARAP scheme.It says that number is less than a third of the 3,000 interpreters who worked for the UK. Nor does it include other locally hired staff who were not in an "exposed role", such as cooks and gardeners.

DAN RIVERS FOR ITV, 22 July 2021

Campaigners for Sulha Alliance, which has taken up the plight of Afghan interpreters, are outraged that so many other contractors for the British Army have been forgotten. Ed Aitkins: “The Taliban are completely indiscriminate when it comes to retribution against those who helped the British and international troops. They couldn’t care less if you were an interpreter who was terminated from employment or a pot washer in the kitchen.


"[W]hat we are seeing is a resettlement policy that is being implemented in a pernickety and ungenerous way [...]. And I’m pretty certain this is not what the British public want. And it’s certainly not what the serving and veteran community wants.”

STEPHANIE VAESSEN FOR ALJAZEERA, 24 July 2021

Former local staff to British forces recently held a protest in Kabul, urging the UK Government to evacuate them.

S. was an interpreter for them, but because he was dismissed his application for resettlement was rejected. He said the same happened to dozens of others: "We kindly request the UK Government to help us. The Taliban will not look at our termination, they will kill us."

Sara de Jong: "The NATO came to Afghanistan [...] promising human rights. Quite a few of the people that I interviewed wonder where their human rights are.

JOSH LAYTON FOR THE METRO, 23 July 2021

While the British Government has stepped up efforts to relocate former locally-employed staff, the global politics student has joined campaign group the Sulha Alliance in warning that the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) risks leaving out many who are at risk.


‘The fast-track resettlement programme is a welcome gesture but it is not enough,’ Nazir Ayeen said. ‘It is too little and not inclusive enough; it doesn’t allow labourers to come to the UK, it doesn’t include people dismissed for any reason and it doesn’t include the whole community of Afghans who worked for the British Government. It’s very specific in who to resettle and how it happens.’

DAVID WILLIAMS and MARK NICOL FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 16 July 2021

Sara de Jong, of the Sulha Alliance which has campaigned for translators, said: ‘For the handful of resettled interpreters who were engaged according to cultural custom, but who couldn’t marry officially before coming to safety in the UK, we need a generous arrangement to bring their wives to the UK.

The inability to protect their families back in Afghanistan takes a psychological toll on the interpreters. With the Taliban gaining in strength every day, and little time left till the US and Nato withdraw, these families should be urgently reunited, to protect wives and children against revenge from insurgents.’

BARNABY PAPADOPULOS , VICE World News, 13 July 2021

According to the Sulha Alliance, a UK-based organisation that advocates for the rights of former interpreters, up to 35 percent of Afghans had their contracts terminated for discipline breaches.


Maajid, who spoke on the condition of anonymity over fears for his safety, was a translator for coalition troops in Helmand Province between 2009 and 2011. After two years, Maajid, like Abdullah, lost his job, after getting into a physical altercation with a fellow interpreter at their patrol base in Helmand. Maajid claims the incident occurred after he refused to give his colleague a can of Pepsi.


Now, Maajid says that even Kabul isn’t safe. “The situation is getting worse day by day,” he said. “We can’t go outside… we don’t have life. This is life in a prison.”

DAVID WILLIAMS and MARK NICOL FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 9 July 2021

The wives of Afghan former translators have begun legal action against the Government to allow them to join their husbands in Britain. A dozen women fear being left to face Taliban revenge attacks – with UK and US forces due to pull out from Afghanistan by September 11.

Their husbands, who were interpreters for the UK military, were engaged to wed them when they were granted sanctuary in Britain. Now lawyers for the women told the Home Office they will seek a judicial review of the decision, highlighting the risk they face from the Taliban and their denial of the right to a family life.

The Sulha Alliance for the interpreters said: 'These families should be urgently reunited to protect wives and children against revenge.'

SIMON DIGGINS, RUSI COMMENTARY, 7 July 2021

"The consequences of leaving things too late are known. French President Emmanuel Macron asked whether the former French interpreters were likely to become ‘Les Harkis Nouvelles’ – a reference to the North Africans who supported the French colonial administration, only to be abandoned to a cruel fate when France decided to relinquish its colonies.


As Afghanistan is unlikely to be the last significant overseas deployment by the British Armed Forces, it is worth recalling the convoluted evolution of this policy, which is not yet over. The answer to the question, ‘when does it end?’ appears to be ‘never’."

MARK CARDWELL for BIRMINGHAM LIVE, 7 July 2021

Dr Sara de Jong, senior lecturer in politics at the University of York, works with the Sulha Alliance on behalf of Afghan interpreters and their families.

Stating any local staff - not just interpreters - can be at risk, she gave the example of Abdul Basir, a former employee of the French Army who was denied repatriation to France three times and last month was assassinated.

"I am sorry to hear Jamal is facing these issues with his father's relocation,” she said. “His father should be recognised as at risk because of his work as a labourer. Also, Iraqi interpreters were actually allowed to bring extended family.”

JOE SINCLAIR for FT Film, 4 July 2021
B. PAPADOPULOS and A. LATIFI for BUSINESS INSIDER, 26 June 2021

Dr. Sara de Jong, one of the [Sulha Alliance]'s founding members, said too many LECs have "fallen through the cracks of the relocation policy. The fact that the government failed to have an appropriate policy in place earlier cannot be a reason to exclude [those who have now fled to third countries]".

"We also need to ensure that [former Afghan Locally Engaged Civilians] can build up a meaningful life [once they are relocated]. It's not just about staying alive. It's about the right to a life."

MARK CARDWELL for BIRMINGHAM LIVE, 24 June 2021

Dr Sara de Jong, senior lecturer in politics at the University of York, spoke on behalf of the Sulha Alliance – which campaigns for the rights of former Afghan interpreters who have served with the British military.


"The Sulha Alliance is delighted to see that the group on the first flight has now been brought to safety in the UK. Many have been waiting for years to finally be relocated. However, the much greater number of former local staff is still in Afghanistan at the moment."

SKY NEWS, 22 June 2021
HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH, 8 June 2021

On June 1, the Sulha Alliance, which advocates for former Afghan employees with the British armed forces, said that all NATO members should adopt relocation policies to protect former interpreters and other Afghan employees.


It noted that NATO has been divided in its approach, with some members, such as Canada, offering no relocation plans. Australia and Germany have not expedited resettlement.

JASMINE ANDERSON FOR I-NEWS, 3 June 2021

In a tweet on Tuesday, the former major general wrote: “Absolutely delighted that my former Afghan interpreter from 2007 today received notice that he will be relocated to the UK.

LARISA BROWN FOR THE TIMES, 2 June 2021

The Sulha Alliance, a campaign group in the UK, and 16 other partner organisations from seven countries, have written a letter to the Nato secretary-general, Jens Stoltenberg, urging member states to provide immediate protection to Afghan employees and their families as troops withdraw.


In the letter, copied to Boris Johnson, they said that Nato countries should immediately evacuate the staff they had employed to ensure "that those who protected our lives will themselves be safe from reprisal".

talkRADIO Julia Hartley-Brewer's breakfast show, 1 June 2021

Dr Sara de Jong, political scientist at the University of York and co-founder of the Sulha Network: "Afghanistan is of course a very unsafe country for many people, but this is a group of people who is specifically targetted because of their employment history.

"There has always been a broad consensus among the British public, wherever you are on the political spectrum that [relocation Afghan interpreters] is the right thing to do.

ISABELLA KWAI FOR THE NEW YORK TIMES, 31 May 2021

Dr. de Jong said [that] the April policy excluded staff members who had been fired, a point of concern given that many staffer members had been let go for minor offenses, such as carrying personal electronic devices to update their families or not returning from leave for personal reasons. And the policy change came too late for Afghans who have already fled and now reside, sometimes without documentation, in other countries like India, Serbia and Turkey, she said.


Government sources on Monday confirmed a report in The Daily Mail that said that those who had been dismissed for minor offenses but were otherwise eligible for resettlement would be approved if there were no other reasons for concern — a development that advocates said could have a major impact.


The onus now was on the government, Dr. de Jong said, to reach out to Afghan workers who were previously ineligible and help ensure that they apply for relocation.

Der Tagesspiegel and Trouw, 1 June 2021

Example of coverage in the German newspaper Der Tagesspiegel and Dutch newspaper Trouw of Sulha Alliance's joint international letter to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Heads of State and Governments in the US, Canada, Australia, Britain, Germany, France and Italy.

"Without a coordinated effort to guarantee the protection of the Afghan local staff that supported its partner nations, NATO risks betraying its own promise that the “drawdown will be orderly, coordinated, and deliberate”.

ITV, 31 May 2021

The Sulha Alliance says some 35% of translators, amounting to 1,010, will not be offered the option to settle in the UK.


"We need the Government to actively reach out to those they have previously rejected on that basis, as recently as late April.

[Who have been fired] for having phoned their family to say that they are safe, which was considered a security breach because they were carrying a SIM card or a mobile phone."

JOSH LAYTON FOR THE METRO, 31 May 2021

Ed Aitken, a former British Army officer and the co-founder of the Sulha Alliance, which is supporting former interpreters, welcomed the pledge to speed up the application process.

Mr Aitken said: ‘The announcement is good news, although there are still gaps with those who are eligible for support, most notably interpreters who were terminated. ‘There is some concession for those who were terminated for the most minor offences but the bar is still set very low for exclusion from the scheme, particularly when you compare it to the bar for exclusion for those seeking asylum, which is set very high. The question that needs to be asked is, does the alleged offence really justify the death sentence that exclusion from the scheme would certainly result in?’

Agence France Press, 31 May 2021

On Monday, 16 organisations from across seven NATO nations campaigning for the rights of local Afghan workers and including the UK-based Sulha Alliance wrote an open letter calling for alliance members to "provide immediate protection to Afghan staff and their families who are facing threats".


The letter said translators "are afraid that they will be left behind not only due to inconsistent criteria, but also because the deteriorating security situation makes it impossible to travel to interviews and obtain documents in time".

AFP quoted in the South China Morning Post, 31 May 2021

Retired Colonel Simon Diggins, the former British attaché in Kabul and now a campaigner for the Sulha Alliance said he welcomed the acceleration of relocations saying it showed “goodwill and a positive attitude of officials and senior ministers”.

However, he was critical of a continued lack of clarity for translators who were dismissed from the British Army and may be denied relocation as a result. Diggins also questioned whether logistics would allow so many to be relocated in so little time.

“I am really not sure how they are going to make it work with all those numbers. I really hope they can. But the numbers are huge and do they really have the resources to deliver that?” he asked.

BBC World Service May 31, 2021 06:00AM-09:00AM BST

Listen to this BBC World Service interview with our Co-Founder, Retired Colonel Simon Diggins, who responds to the announcement about the acceleration of the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).


"The difficulty is that some people who they now may accept, have in the past been rejected. And they are in a slightly desperate place and wondering, 'what on earth do we do?', and so some of them have not come forward to apply to the new ARAP scheme. So we need the Government to go out and actually positively contact them."

PATRICK DALY FOR THE EVENING STANDARD, 31 May 2021

Veteran Army officer Ed Aitken, founder of the Sulha Alliance campaign group, said he was “pleased” about the scheme but warned that there was a “low” bar for rejecting those who previously risked their lives to support British troops.

“We are pleased with where we are but there are concerns there are some glaring gaps where there are going to be parts of this community who are left vulnerable and won’t be included under this policy,” Mr Aitken, who undertook two tours of Helmand Province, told BBC Radio 4’s Today.


BEN DOHERTY FOR THE GUARDIAN , 30 May 2021

Dr Sara de Jong of the University of York and a founding member of the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for interpreters who worked with British forces, says the threat against locally engaged staff is not new “but the Taliban regards the peace accords as a confirmation they won the war”. “The confidence of the Taliban – and their ability to take revenge – has increased.”

De Jong says it is “logistically possible” for coalition countries to extract personnel at risk and their families. [...] “Where there’s a will there’s a way. This is an international mission that seeks to coordinate among partner nations, why is there no coordination on this?”

DAVID WILLIAMS and SAM GREENHILL FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 11 May 2021

Afghan veteran Major Ed Aitken, founder of the Sulha Alliance, which supports translators, said: 'After the trauma of the war where interpreters stood shoulder to shoulder with British troops... can you imagine the extra mental health damage the incompetence of this Government has inflicted on these men and their families, to whom we owe so much?

His colleague Sara De Jong added: 'With 5,000 Taliban prisoners released since last year and less than 150 days till the US withdraws from Afghanistan, families should be urgently reunited to protect wives and children against revenge.'

MAEDEH SHARIFI FOR CITY INTERNATION, 6 May 2021

“Unfortunately, we have already been notified about at least 25 cases in which local staff who applied to the scheme were immediately informed that their termination meant that they were excluded from ‘relocation by default’” Dr Sara de Jong, Co-Founder of advocacy initiative Sulha Alliance and Senior Lecturer in Politics at the University of York, explains.

“First of all, our observation was that the number of disciplinary dismissals was very high; which British company would fire 1/3 of its workers for disciplinary reasons?” Dr de Jong tells City Internation. [...] Dr de Jong also points to the fact that “local staff had no right to appeal against being dismissed so their perspective on the situation remained unheard”.

“We think there needs to be a clearer commitment that even if an interpreter was terminated, if there is a threat to their safety they should be eligible for aspects of ARAP, including resettlement to the UK.” she says. According to Sulha Alliance, there are other challenges in the application process, such as the government not accepting the applications of those from third countries who had to flee.

The Times - Letter to the Editor - 4th of May 2021

"Thirty-five per cent of the interpreters taken on from 2001 to 2014 were dismissed. That is a staggeringly high proportion and suggests that dismissal was over-used as an HR management tool, rather than as punishment. [...]

[T]he Sulha Alliance has called for a full, transparent and urgent review of all those dismissed. Our investigations reveal little "due process", no right of appeal and nil consideration of previously good service. Some, even after review, may not deserve sanctuary in this country but the bar for excluding asylum seekers, on the grounds of their prior behaviour, is very high; most of those dismissed would easily get in if the asylum-seeker test were applied."

Colonel Simon Diggins (retired) Defence attaché, Kabul, 2008-10; The Sulha Alliance

JOSH LAYTON FOR METRO, 4 May 2021

The Sulha Alliance, which is supporting the man and other former interpreters, says that a third of the interpreters who assisted the UK, around 1,000 people, have been dismissed for minor disciplinary or administrative issues, such as smoking or arriving late, and as a result have not qualified for Government resettlement schemes.


Retired Colonel Simon Diggins, a former defence attaché to Kabul who is now a spokesperson for the alliance, said today that 35 per cent of the interpreters employed between 2001 and 2014 were dismissed. In a letter to The Times, Col Diggins writes: ‘That is a staggeringly high proportion and suggests that dismissal was over-used as a HR management tool, rather than as punishment.’

JOSH LAYTON FOR METRO, 28 April 2021

The Sulha Alliance said that former and current translators who have put their lives on the line to help British forces are already suffering daily assassination attempts due to their work.


The support network is calling for an emergency plan to resettle the locally-employed civilians in the UK amid fears the Taliban will mount bloody reprisals after the handover to the Afghan government.


Mr Aitken said: ‘The new Afghan Resettlement and Assistance Policy (ARAP) needs to ensure the previously seen twelve to eighteen month delays in processing applications for relocation to the UK are hugely reduced. We need an emergency plan to get these guys out at the same time as our troops.’

JACK HUNTER FOR BBC NEWS, 26 April 2021

But retired Colonel Simon Diggins, formerly the British attaché in Kabul and now a campaigner for Afghan interpreters, says many of those dismissals were for trivial reasons.

"Whilst some of those who were dismissed did things that were disgraceful, there were a very large number of people who were dismissed for very minor or administrative issues," he told the BBC. [...] "What we're asking for is that their cases are all reviewed."

LARISA BROWN FOR THE TIMES, 15 April 2021

Afghan interpreters face a “ghastly betrayal” if they are left behind when British forces withdraw this year, a former defence attaché to Kabul said.

Colonel Simon Diggins said the interpreters were “really scared” by the planned pullout by September 11 and urged ministers to let more of them into Britain.

DAVID WILLIAMS and MARK NICOL FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 15 April 2021

Retired colonel Simon Diggins, founding member of the Sulha Alliance, which helps translators, has written to Defence Secretary Ben Wallace calling for the [relocation] process to be accelerated.

Mr Diggins also raised the concern of hundreds of ex-translators dismissed for disciplinary reasons from their jobs, which would normally exclude them from sanctuary in the UK.

DAVID WILLIAMS and MARK NICOL FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 20 March 2021
Former captain Peter Gordon-Finlayson, an Afghan veteran and founding member of the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for interpreters, said last night: 'We are delighted to welcome Nesar to the UK and thank the Home Office and MoD for intervening in his case – he will be a credit to society.'
DAVID WILLIAMS and LARISA BROWN FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 29 January 2021

Colonel Simon Diggins, former military attache at the British embassy in Kabul, who campaigns for translators, said the murder was part of a 'campaign to assassinate former interpreters'.

DAVID WILLIAMS and LARISA BROWN FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 16 January 2021

Peter Gordon-Finlayson, former Army captain and founding member of the Sulha Alliance, which campaigns for interpreters, said: 'The Sulha Alliance is delighted that the Government recognises Nesar's qualification for relocation to the UK. He is truly a worthy recipient of UK support.'

2020

"Hundreds of Afghans whose lives are at risk from the Taliban because they helped the UK will be allowed to come to Britain under a new Government scheme. [...]

The scheme is the latest twist in the controversy over the fate of locals who helped British forces and it represents another victory for this paper's Betrayal of the Brave campaign highlighting the issue.

The Government believes hundreds of Afghan staff and their families could be brought to the UK.

The scheme will offer relocation to current and ex-employees such as embassy support staff, those in political or counter-terrorism roles, or cultural advisers. It will also give hope to interpreters who have been unable to come to the UK under a separate relocation scheme where they had to be working in Helmand for 12 months and then made redundant or quit.

Interpreters in the public eye – pictured with politicians or on TV, for example – could now be allowed into Britain on the basis that their lives could be at risk. Those 'terminated' from their position with the British Army could also be allowed in if they can provide fresh evidence that their lives are in immediate danger.

Defence sources said they will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis, with those terminated for less serious reasons more likely to be allowed into the UK."

LARISA BROWN and DAVID WILLIAMS FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 29 December 2020
Retired Colonel Simon Diggins, former military attache in Kabul, said: 'The situation has fundamentally changed and while everyone welcomes peace, there's a really big danger the Afghan interpreters will be the sacrifice. I'm delighted, but the devil will be in the detail.'
DAVID WILLIAMS and LARISA BROWN FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 14 December 2020
In a damning insight into the Intimidation Investigation Unit (IIU), a Briton who worked with it said translators applying for relocation faced 'unfair barriers' and alleged the 'focus was on putting the claimant under investigation'. [...] the whistleblower, [...] provided his evidence to the Sulha Alliance, a group of former Army officers and academics campaigning for the rights of Afghan translators.
Major Ed Aitken, who served in Helmand, said on the alliance's behalf: 'It is a deeply institutional injustice that is a reflection of those who make the policies back in London.'
DAVID WILLIAMS and LARISA BROWN FOR THE DAILY MAIL, 5 September 2020
Simon Diggins, a former British Army colonel who campaigns on behalf of Afghan translators, said: ‘After the positive, and long-overdue, news that seven of our former Afghan interpreters, resident in UK, would at last be united with their families, it is the cruellest disappointment to hear that five families cannot travel because there is no accommodation here for them; this feels like insult piled on injury."


Colonel Simon Diggins, a founder member of the Sulha Alliance, discussed the potential issues raised by President Trump's recent announcements on withdrawing US forces on British Forces Broadcasting Service (BFBS).
His overall conclusion is that, without backfilling of the withdrawing US forces, UK forces will inevitably have to become more focused on their own Force Protection and security and less on the operational mission, supporting the training and development of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). At some point, the whole mission may become untenable.
More broadly, a precipitate collapse of the NATO Mission will be extremely harmful to overall security, including the morale of ANSF. This will create an opportunity for the Taliban and IS to exploit, further endangering the security and lives of our former interpreters.
AARON WALAWALKAR FOR THE GUARDIAN, 19 September 2020
Retired colonel Simon Diggins, who has long campaigned for Afghan interpreters, told the Guardian how as many as 15 interpreters excluded from the scheme have attempted to seek refuge in the UK by travelling through Iran, Turkey and Europe.[...] “I’m very impressed by the way there appears to have been a change of spirit … there appears to be a door open.”But he added: “My personal view is we should accept liability for all those who are under threat because of their service with us. It is not a small number but what I am saying is it is manageable."
Former Army officer Ed Aitken, who had pressed former immigration minister Caroline Nokes to ensure the reunification happened, said: ‘Explaining to her why she needed to change the policy was the easy bit.‘It was the frustratingly slow bureaucracy of delivering that policy change which has caused such misery in the community to which we owe much better treatment.’
By Chris Hughes for the MIRROR, 18 August 2020
“These people are extremely special as they served alongside our troops with great courage and loyalty,” said Col Diggins, 61. “They are all educated, thoroughly decent and loyal and it fills me with utter despair to hear some have travelled all the way to Calais in a struggle to get here. [...] Britain owes a huge debt to these interpreters and allowing them to come here is the least we can do."
By LUCY FISHER for THE TIMES, 28th of July 2020
Colonel Simon Diggins, the former British defence attaché in Kabul, wrote to the MoD in May demanding urgent action, and followed up his letter with a reminder a month later, but has received no reply.He noted that the plight of some Afghans had not ended upon resettlement in the UK. Some have faced issues trying to bring their families to join them in Britain. Others encountered red tape that has blocked them from getting well-paid jobs, instead confining them to low-paid and insecure employment.

2019

Ed Aitken, who has served as a captain in the Army and now campaigns for the interpreters, said: ‘It is a sad state of affairs when our police and Armed Forces are so desperate to recruit from our BAME [black, Asian and minority ethnic] communities.‘Yet these men, who have expressed a desire to serve this country again, are prevented by an inflexible policy despite the service and sacrifice they have already given us.’
THE TIMES 15 June 2019
As Colonel Simon Diggins, a former defence attaché at the British embassy in Kabul, has said, the Afghan interpreters have nothing to prove in the way of loyalty or commitment to the cause. There are vacancies with Nato forces in Afghanistan. Qualified interpreters are living in Britain, working in private security and fast food restaurants, who are keen to take up the work. One man translated for Prince William in Camp Bastion in Helmand in 2010 but he is not thought to be a safe option for a job with Nato despite being able to furnish references from senior officers that attest to his complete loyalty.
By LUCY FISHER for THE TIMES 15 June 2019
The medium-high level of vetting known as "security clearance" requires a minimum of ten years' UK residency and five years' British nationality, according to Ministry of Defence correspondence seen by The Times. Colonel Simon Diggins, a former defence attaché at the British embassy in Kabul, said the government's intransigence was illogical and unreasonable, arguing that the interpreters had "already proven their loyalty under the most testing circumstances". The approach showed a "lack of compassionate understanding", he added.
Colonel Simon Diggins, a former attache at Britain's Kabul embassy, gave evidence on behalf of Sai. He said: 'Wounded in action, alongside British troops, in our common struggle against the Taliban, we should have been welcoming him with open arms not trying to throw him out.
'I call on the British government to grant sanctuary to all our former interpreters ... We must make good our debt of honour to these brave men and women.'
SIMON OSBORNE for the EXPRESS 8 April 2019
Colonel Simon Diggins, a former defence attaché at the British embassy in Kabul, described the situation as a 'tragedy in the making'.He said last year there was credible evidence of interpreters being murdered or chased out of their homes. Col Diggins said: “Despite the Government's promise of a relaxing of the criteria for our interpreters coming to this country, to date, as far as we can tell, not a single additional interpreter has been helped."
ALJAZEERA 12 February 2019
Simon Diggins, a former British colonel, has condemned the UK policy. “I think we treat them very badly. Interpreters gave their lives for us, people have been injured, they’ve been killed and without them, we couldn’t have done our work in Afghanistan. For them, I believe, we have a genuine debt of honour to them,” said Diggins.

2018

WILLIAM WARREN for FORCES NET, 9 NOV 2018
Ed Aitken was one the blond soldiers Rashid was speaking about.The former army captain completed two tours of Afghanistan and served with The Royal Lancers. He remembers meeting his interpreter Hares very clearly and speaks passionately about the impact interpreters played in the conflict.“Hares very much became part of the family … interpreters became a lifeline; they became the guys we relied on. They would be able to intercept the insurgencies communication and so we would have that significant advantage to a commander of being able to understand what the enemy was saying.”
EWEN MACASKILL for THE GUARDIAN, 7 Sep 2018
Aitken suggested contacting the interpreters to set up a network.[...] “We became the focal point for the Afghan interpreters,” Aitken said. They called the organisation Sulha Network. Sulha (which means “reconciliation” in Dari) is now in contact with more than half of the 390 interpreters in the UK.
BBC 26 May 2018
The Ministry of Defence says Britain is the only nation that has a team in Kabul, investigating intimidation.But Col Simon Diggins said interpreters were being attacked in Afghanistan."We have credible evidence of individuals being murdered, others have been chased out of their homes," the former defence attaché to Kabul told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.
SIMON DIGGINS for THE GUARDIAN 13 Feb 2018
"Whatever one thinks of the UK’s intervention in Afghanistan, we have a debt of honour and gratitude to our former interpreters and it is a scandal that we are not meeting it."

2017

MAY BULMAN 7 DEC 2017 for the INDEPENDENT
Peter Gordon Finlayson, who also knew Mr Husseinkhel while working as a captain on the front line in Helmand, said: “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."
Colonel Simon Diggins, the former British defence attache in Kabul who also gave evidence to the committee, said the UK policy towards interpreters was ‘inadequate’.He said: ‘In my view it is in inadequate and it does not recognise the degree of danger that is there or the continuing threat in Kabul.’He said there was an instance in July 2010 when an interpreter had three limbs blown off while he was on patrol with UK troops.
MICHAEL SAVAGE for THE TIMES, 8 February 2017
Colonel Simon Diggins, the former British Defence Attaché in Kabul, criticised the "over-tight boundaries" of the current relocation schemes on offer. "It is inadequate. It does not recognise the level of threat that is there," he said."My sense is we are back to the idea of the First World War. The general staff resisted for a long time the ability of airmen to have parachutes. They said 'no, they won't commit themselves'. And it seems to me that's where we are with this interpreters' scheme."

The campaign for justice for our former interpreters has attracted widespread support from right across the political and media spectrum; the award winning Daily Mail's 'Betrayal of the Brave' campaign, in particular, has often foregrounded the issue in a way that politicians cannot ignore. We wish to acknowledge the determined and principled engagement of many journalists, but especially Larisa Brown and David Williams.