Online Articles

SARA DE JONG for THE CONVERSATION, 16 AUG 20121

The “lightning speed” of the Taliban’s advance fails to fully explain why so many western nations have been left scrambling to bring their former local Afghan staff to sanctuary. Interpreters and other locally engaged civilians (known as LECs) have been at risk for many years.

Interpreters themselves, but also veterans, journalists and other advocates have said so for a long time. The relocation should not have needed to happen at the 11th hour.

[...] Media exposure has resulted in change, but it has been haphazard and reactive. Interpreters at the British Embassy in Kabul were initially excluded from relocation because they were subcontracted rather than employed directly by the UK government. Abdicating responsibility by employing people through third parties is not done accidentally.

Only after the embassy interpreters reached out to the Sulha Alliance, and their plight was highlighted in the Times and the Daily Mail, were they offered relocation to the UK on July 31. All 21 are currently still in Afghanistan, fearing for their lives. None of them knows when they will be relocated. Others who have received relocation offers as recently as in the last days have had no information about the next steps. Passport offices are closed and the local unit processing relocation applications is not responding to calls or emails.

On August 1, Home Secretary Priti Patel and Wallace confidently declared that: “Those coming to Britain know the truth. If you looked out for us, we will look after you.” To get to the truth, it may be better to ask those who won’t be coming to Britain any time soon.

SARA DE JONG for THE CONVERSATION, 21 April 20121

Guaranteeing the human rights of local staff in Afghanistan and those resettled to the west would lend greater credibility to Nato secretary general Jens Stoltenberg’s appeal to the Afghan people to “build a sustainable peace [that] safeguards the human rights of all Afghans”.

Without a coordinated approach to the protection of the Afghan local staff that supports its partner nations, Nato risks betraying its promise that their “drawdown will be orderly, coordinated, and deliberate”.

SARA DE JONG for DISCOVER SOCIETY, 6 November 2019
Afghan and Iraqi interpreters have found an impressive range of allies, including from groups not usually associated with migrants’ rights. Veterans constitute an important and powerful supporter group. [...] Importantly, these allies engage with former local interpreters as colleagues with essential skills, rather than as Others separated from them by ‘race’ or migrant status. These allies also recognise that the interpreters are owed a duty of care. That they are humans – even brothers in arms – who cannot simply be disposed of, when no longer useful.
SARA DE JONG for OPENDEMOCRACY, 12 May 2018
While LECs see themselves as ‘double patriots’, in the apt words of Colonel (Rtd) Simon Diggins OBE, former British Defence Attaché in Kabul, serving both Afghanistan or Iraq and Britain, once their employment ended, they found that their belonging was fractured and conditional. Many felt discarded, thrown away, and dehumanised; treated with less care than military equipment. Let’s hope that the decision to waive the indefinite leave to remain fee for resettled former Afghan interpreters is just one of many further steps to recognise their humanity, their needs and contributions.
SARA DE JONG for THE CONVERSATION, 30 MAY 2018
For those locally employed civilians still in danger in Afghanistan and those facing deportation from the UK because of rejected asylum claims, time is even more of essence. History shows us that changes in policy and formal apologies do not always come quickly. In this case, however, there is clear evidence of the [Intimidation] scheme’s failure. [...]
International relocation shouldn’t be a last resort, out of reach for all – and there is no excuse for further lives being wasted away.