The interpreters, who assisted UK and US Troops in the fight against the Taliban, were set to be deported unless they paid visa application fees of £2,389. Campaigners and officials welcomed the decision but many said much more action is needed.
Both new home secretary Sajid Javid and defence secretary Gavin Williamson spoke in favour of the decision. But those affected pointed out the barriers that are still in place.
One interpreter, for example, still faces deportation back to Afghanistan despite detailing Taliban threats against him. This is because the Home Office ruling only protects those who worked as interpreters between 2012 and 2014. Approximately 600 people – only around half of all the interpreters employed – will be covered by this ruling.
Some spouses and children of interpreters do not currently have the right to remain in the UK. Family members must have entered the UK at the same time as the interpreter was granted leave to stay.
The group of interpreters said this was a “miserable injustice”. They claimed it was not possible to get the relevant documentation at the time. Javid committed himself to looking into the current family reunification rules.
More must be done
The issue surrounding interpreters has existed for many years. Some of those who travelled by sea to Europe in search of safety have been interpreters for both the UK and US army. One fleeing refugee who took his life into his own hands travelling to Greece said the US had been happy to see him “die like a sheep”.
Windrush and Afghan deportation scandals have hit the headlines. But human rights workers have said that changes to the Home Office have to go much deeper. Human rights barrister Adam Wagner said the real test for Javid is indefinite detention:
This is good but key litmus test for Sajid Javid is what he does on immigration detention.
Currently UK is only state in Europe with no time limit for how long it imprisons people to make removing them easier.
Effect is many are in prison *for years* https://t.co/8ThzCB1B0i
— Adam Wagner (@AdamWagner1) May 4, 2018
Fellow barrister Colin Yeo joined Wagner in calling for more action. Yeo said that other groups should also be given fee waivers:
Very welcome news. There are other groups who need monstrously high immigration fees waived as well, particularly children charged over £1k to register as British citizens. The fees are so high some parents cannot afford it, the kids lose out. https://t.co/K0V6cZEmOg
— Colin Yeo (@ColinYeo1) May 4, 2018
“Shamed into action”
As many celebrated the decision, others questioned the willingness of the Home Office to make the changes. Journalist Deborah Haynes said the department was “shamed into action”:
The waiver of fees for Afghan interpreters in UK is great but I despair that yet again @ukhomeoffice fails to do the right thing until shamed into action. They knew about plight of these brave people since February but only act after some bad headlines. https://t.co/0Kvm9Nk76b
— Deborah Haynes (@haynesdeborah) May 4, 2018
While Labour MP Sarah Champion said she couldn’t “believe the fight” it took to get to this decision:
Afghan interpreters' UK immigration fee finally waived. I can’t believe the fight to get the Tories to do the right thing over these people who risked their lives to support us https://t.co/TliDO4F2ls
— Sarah Champion (@SarahChampionMP) May 4, 2018
It is clear that this is the right decision by the Home Office. The government should always look after those who risk their lives for it. But the issue is far from resolved. Big changes are needed to stop these scandals occurring again.
– Join The Canary, so we can keep holding the powerful to account.
– Read and support other independent media outlets:
Media Diversified, Novara Media, Corporate Watch, Red Pepper, New Internationalist, Common Space, Media Lens, Bella Caledonia, Vox Political, Evolve Politics, Real Media, Reel News, STRIKE! magazine, The Bristol Cable, The Meteor, The Skwawkbox, Salford Star, The Ferret.
Featured image via Counse/Flickr
We need your help to keep speaking the truth
Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.
Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.
We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.
In return, you get:
* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop
Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.
With your help we can continue:
* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do
We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?