Plight of Iraqi interpreters

The plight of Iraqis who worked as interpreters for the British army in Iraq is highlighted in The National. One of them, identified as "Hussein", resigned after a few months when insurgents began targeting interpreters as traitors and two of his colleagues were killed. He then fled to Syria:

Financially destitute, technically an illegal immigrant in Syria, yet unable to go to another country, Hussein, now 31, is increasingly despairing of the future. 

In an effort to solve the basic problem of paying for housing and food, on July 17 he joined more than 20 other former interpreters or their widows to file a legal action against the British government in a London court, suing the ministry of defence and the foreign office for compensation. 

The next stage in the court proceedings is not set to begin until January. Sitting in his small Damascus apartment – the rent is paid by a friend – he said he felt badly let down by the British.

The British government has been reluctant to acknowledge obligations towards the interpreters. After a good deal of pressure from the public, it eventually set up an asylum and compensation scheme, and 201 former Iraqi employees were granted asylum in the UK. A further 694 were rejected. 

Unfortunately for Hussein, the scheme only applies to those who were employed for 12 months or more.

Posted by Brian Whitaker, 27 September 2009.