Afghan interpreters are imploring the UK government to come to the aid of those who supported the British armed forces as the Taliban take control of Afghanistan’s capital city Kabul.
Taliban fighters swept into the city on Sunday (15 August) night after President Ashraf Ghani fled, leaving thousands of citizens and foreign nationals desperately trying to escape.
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Chaos quickly unfolded in the city as crowds of Afghans attempted to flee the country on flights, with the scenes at Kabul Airport being likened to the evacuation of the embassy of Saigon in 1975.
But thousands were not so lucky to escape.
Women and girls are now left in fear of a dark future ahead under Taliban rule, while interpreters regard the takeover as a death sentence.
‘They will kill us’
The Taliban’s takeover of the capital comes after almost 20 years of a US-led coalition leading the country and the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The Prime Minister has said the UK is determined to work with allies to prevent the country from again becoming a “breeding ground for terror”, and is preparing to announce a “new and bespoke resettlement scheme” for Afghans most in need.
For interpreters still in the country, the scheme could not come soon enough as those who worked to support the British troops have been left in fear for their lives.
One Afghan interpreter has described how he has been forced into hiding since and said the Taliban will kill him if they find him.
The translator, whose identity was not revealed due to safety reasons, told BBC Radio 4 that there are around 50 Afghans who assisted British troops still waiting for flights to the UK, adding that a further 200 employees are awaiting to hear if they are eligible to be relocated.
The interpreter in hiding said he is still waiting for his own exit papers and visa to be processed, and implored the UK government to speed up the process.
He said: “Kabul is not safe because all of Kabul is in the control of the Taliban.
“I am hiding in…. my house, I am not going outside, I am not showing my face outside to the people.
“I hope the UK government make the process faster, give the people their visas and book their flights, and bring them to the UK as soon as possible. It is not the time to wait for days.
“It may take days, weeks, but I hope the UK government make it hours.”
When asked what may happen to him if he is unable to flee Kabul, he said: “One day they will find us and they will kill us.
“They (the Taliban) are searching for these people, they will never ever leave these people.”
Fears of being left behind
Former Grenadier Guard Julian Perreira has said he fears Afghan translators who assisted British troops could be “left behind”, adding the situation has left hundreds in fear of their lives.
The veteran, who served three tours in Afghanistan and has worked to secure a safe exit for translators, said some interpreters had left their villages after receiving paperwork from the Home Office stating they could come to the UK for relocation.
However, they have since been forced back into hiding in Kabul as they wait to leave the Taliban-occupied territory.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s PM programme, Mr Perreira said: “It is just complete and utter chaos for them, and they are fearful of their life.
“They just do not understand what is happening.
“I’m trying my best to reassure them but from what I’m seeing from the defence minister Ben Wallace, from what he said - I just haven’t got the heart to tell them that I think their worst fears may be coming true, that they may be left behind.
“There is one person I’m speaking to via social media, WhatsApp audio, and he’s currently held up with his wife in a basement - it is just incredibly tough.”
The unfolding events in Afghanistan have prompted campaigners to renew demands for the government to abandon its planned overhaul of the asylum system, currently being considered by Parliament.
The proposed changes, dubbed the anti-refugee Bill, intended to make it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission.
The Bill would mean that how someone enters the UK will affect the progress of their asylum claim and their status in the country if their bid is successful.
After “closely monitoring the situation in Afghanistan” and the escalations over the weekend, the Home Office has now removed its “country policy information”.
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