The Sulha Alliance's work is informed by research and evidence.
International Comparative Research
The report presents and analyses the national resettlement policies aimed at former Afghan staff. It compares 8 countries - Australia (AUS), Canada (CA), Denmark (DK), France (FR), Germany (GER), the Netherlands (NL), the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).
Lack of harmonisation on protection policies between countries resulted in unequal treatment of local Afghan staff, who faced a similar degree of risk and worked in the same capacity, albeit for different nations. It also constitutes a missed opportunity in terms of learning from best practices concerning the protection of former staff.
The comparative analysis offered in this report uncovers:
Collective Failures in the protection and support for Afghan local staff, including Governments’ reactive rather than proactive approach to protection through resettlement.
Country-Specific Shortcomings, such as arbitrarily narrow eligibility criteria for resettlement, limited travel support from Afghanistan, and precarious, temporary legal status for local staff
Country-Specific Best Practices, including right to appeal for rejected applicants, permanent residency status for resettled local staff, and resettlement pathways for extended family members
International Comparative Research
Since 2017, Dr. Sara de Jong has been conducting research on the protection and rights of Afghan and Iraqi Locally Engaged Civilians in the UK, Germany, France, the Netherlands, the United States and Canada.
This enables the Sulha Alliance to identify best practices from other countries that feed into our advocacy efforts. For instance, unlike in the UK, in France, New Zealand and the US, some local interpreters received operational medals in recognition of their work.
The photo shows two former Afghan interpreters for the French Army receiving medals in recognition of their service.
Freedom Of Information Requests
The Sulha Alliance obtains background information for their work through Freedom Of Information requests and Written Questions in the House of Commons and House of Lords.
In September 2020, we received the breakdown for each month from October 2001 to 31 December 2018 of how many locally employed civilian interpreters (i) commenced and (ii) ceased working for HMG in Afghanistan, including a breakdown of how many of those who ceased employment each month (i) were dismissed for disciplinary reasons, (ii) were made redundant, (iii) left following the expiry of their contract, or (iv) left for any other reason.
Quote from a Local Authority Case Worker supporting relocated Afghan interpreters:
“Part of my worry is that they’ve not been given any official army reference number or anything like that. So where our ex-service men can access things like the British Legion and the NHS tailored services for veterans that are suffering, they can’t access any of these […] And that bothers me a little bit because I think, ‘well, you know, […] they’ve seen the same terrible things.’”
Local Research: Best Practices Workshop with Local Authority Caseworkers
Dr. Sara de Jong facilitated a Knowledge Exchange workshop with local authority case workers from England, Scotland and Wales, who support Afghan interpreters resettled under the ex-gratia scheme.
The workshop provided an opportunity for exchange and sharing of best practices between local case workers, in light of lacking central Government coordination between the different local authorities involved in the Ex Gratia Scheme.
The workshop highlighted that there are significant local variations in the implementation of the resettlement support due to differential capacities of local authorities and subcontracted organisations as well as a degree of discretion in terms of how the funding is spent. Some of these variations have led to innovative best practices, such as employing former LECs as interpreters for local councils and a support programme for female spouses. Other disparities have fuelled resentment within the LEC community who feel treated unequally based on random assignment of location.
A selection of concerns expressed by case workers providing support to Afghan interpreters as part of the Ex Gratia Scheme:
The length of the support scheme (4 months) is too short to meet the resettlement needs of Afghan former military interpreters.
Incorrect Identity Documents and Visas caused many issues. The initially issued AF visa presented barriers when accessing services and employment, because of other parties’ unfamiliarity with this visa. Some LECs arrived with handwritten passports, which were not accepted for tenancy agreements and bank accounts.
Local authorities have not always received sufficient medical information from the Home Office and/or IOM. Caseworkers reported cases where the accommodation offered was not appropriate due to unexpected medical needs.
Female spouses of resettled LECs face a number of specific challenges. However, their needs tend to remain unmet as they are complex and time intensive. There were no gender-sensitive guidelines provided to local authorities as part of the relocation guidance.
The workshop took place on the 16th May 2019 in Oldham, in collaboration with First Choice Homes Oldham and supported by HEIF (Higher Education Innovation Fund), University of York.
Why don't Afghan interpreters get to stay?
This Talking Migration podcast, recorded in 2018, features N., a former Afghan interpreter now living in the UK, who joins this episode to discuss how the UK and other Western countries treat their former military employees. N. is in dialogue with Dr Sara de Jong, one of the Sulha Alliance co-founders, who conducts research on the claims for protection, rights and settlement by Afghans and Iraqis who have worked for Western military forces and development organisations, as well as on the activities and strategies of their supporters.