“The [UK Government] scheme put in place to offer assistance and protection …is of no benefit to interpreters who have been forced to flee Afghanistan and are now stuck in Calais…. The destruction of the Calais camp is imminent…grateful for an urgent response” Andy Slaughter MP in his letter to Minister of State for Immigration, Robert Goodwill MP, 7th October 2016
“The Jungle is going to be destroyed soon and we do not know what to do.” Hamid, Afghan Interpreter trapped in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp, said last night. “Please, do something useful. There is news that the UK is taking children and families but we are being abandoned.”
Two young men who were teenagers when they were recruited to interpret for the British Army in Helmand Province, and with whom RAPAR has been working in the Calais ‘Jungle’ camp, are becoming increasingly desperate as the date for the camp's destruction looms.
Speaking with RAPAR last night, one of them pleaded: “Do something useful”. Through their lawyers, the men have made representations to both the French (on 18th March) and UK (on 12th September) Governments. With no response forthcoming, and news of the imminent destruction of the camp, Andy Slaughter MP has now written directly for an “urgent response” from Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill.
Describing how the two young Afghan man are “currently stranded in the Calais jungle”, Mr Slaughter points out that both former interpreters worked “with the British Army in Helmand province, notoriously the most dangerous area in Afghanistan during the UK security efforts in the country”, and that “evidence shows interpreters continue to be targeted by the Taliban.”
He goes onto to explain “The men have been forced to flee the country having faced death threats from the Taliban… after a perilous journey across Europe to seek protection from the UK… [they] now find themselves living in dire and squalid conditions in the Calais jungle.“ He also expresses his concerns about the French States desire “to remove the men to Hungary, which has attempted to create as hostile an environment as possible for refugees.”
Referring to government assurances to Parliament that it is doing all it reasonably can to assist interpreters in Calais, Mr Slaughter asks for “an assurance that the government will do all it can to assist these two men to have their cases decided in the UK” and to “indicate what steps have been taken or are planned to be taken to assist these two men“.
French lawyer, Orsane Brosin, has been working with RAPAR and the interpreters since February. She says: "Since Hamid and Walid ended up here almost a year ago, they have never been in such a vulnerable situation. On the one hand, they live with the daily threat of being arrested by French police and sent back to Hungary. On the other, lies the threat of being evicted from the camp by the end of this month, without anything for them to live decently. Will the British Government takes on its responsibility - or will it abandon them?"
And their UK-based lawyer, Lewis Kett, welcomes Mr Slaughter’s intervention: “The UK government have so far ignored our requests to transfer our clients’ cases to the UK. Their situation is getting more desperate and their future more uncertain in light of the French government’s imminent plans to dismantle the camp in Calais. It is hoped that additional parliamentary pressure will provide a more urgent response from UK officials.”
A RAPAR spokesperson added: “We have known these two young men since February, when they began to help us to speak with Calais camp residents, including children. They interpreted for us, as people described to us what they have endured and how much they want to reach safety and peace. The resilience, tenacity and grace that we have witnessed from these men, and many other Calais residents, compels us to continue to act from within the UK now. The situation in Calais is violating everyone’s human rights. The British Government can stop that violation immediately, by enabling these two men, and everyone else who wants to claim asylum in the UK, to exercise their right to do so. We welcome all efforts towards that end.”
Footage with these two camp residents who had worked as interpreters for the British forces in Afghanistan was screened on Channel 4 news: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o-i-oxaAyxM and has been viewed over 2,500 times.
This screening precipitated the following interview with the former commander of British forces in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp: http://richard-kemp.com/interpreters/.
A follow up posting of this news item onto Channel 4’s own website has had over 81000 hits. https://www.facebook.com/Channel4News/videos/10153556523541939
For more information: Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR, 0044 777 626 4646, firstname.lastname@example.org