A moral obligation

It has long been accepted by the vast majority of the British people, whatever their views on immigration in general, that service to Queen and Country counts for something; that regardless of the different rules on immigration and residency that may or may not be in force at any particular time, any man or woman who, for whatever reason, places their life at risk in service of the realm has earned for themselves and , at least, their immediate family, the moral right to enjoy the very best of protections this country can offer, that of residency in this country.

One sees this view displayed most clearly in regards to the Gurkhas, whose moral claim to have earned, through service,the right to reside on these shores goes almost undisputed, even by members of the British National Party.

There is another group of foreign nationals who, at the present time, are no less deserving of consideration than the Gurhkas and to whom we have no less as a moral obligation to provide adequately for their personal safety, and the safety of their families.

They are not soldiers, although for the last four years they have worked alongside British forces in the most difficult and dangerous circumstances, putting their lives at risk merely for doing their job… oh what the hell, just read what Justin has to say and you’ll get the picture:

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Since British troops occupied Southern Iraq in the spring of 2003, thousands of Iraqi citizens have worked for the British Army, the Coalition Provisional Authority (South) and for contractors serving UK forces. There is now considerable evidence that their lives, and the lives of their families, are at risk: some former workers for the British have been murdered, and many others have fled to neighbouring countries or gone into hiding in Basra.

The British Government, for whom they were ultimately working, has not offered them the right of asylum in the UK. This is morally unacceptable. It is also unnecessary, since we are well able to accommodate several thousand Iraqi refugees, most of whom already speak English and all of whom have already worked for our country.

The most detailed recent report, by Jonathan Miller of Channel Four News, notes the murder of 17 translators in one single incident in Basra. It cites the cases of hundreds of others who have fled to a refugee existence in nearby Middle Eastern countries or are in hiding in Iraq. The British Government response has come from the Home Office, which has suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for British troops ‘register with the UN refugee agency’. Other reports provide supporting detail: Iraqis are being targeted for murder because they have worked for British forces. (See here and here.)

Marie Colvin’s report for the Times of April 8 speaks of desperate former workers for the British Army being turned away from the British embassy in Syria by staff who had orders not to admit any Iraqis. These brave men and women have testimonials written by British officers stating that they are at risk from jihadi violence: and yet we are still refusing to admit them to the United Kingdom.

If you feel that this is unacceptable and that Britain should prevent Iraqis from being murdered for the ‘crime’ of working for British troops, could you please write to your MP and ask him or her to press the Government for action. You can use the excellent website ‘Write to Them‘ or post a letter yourself.

Please be courteous when writing to your MP. It would be a good idea to read the reports above, and cite relevant facts. We would suggest that your letter could contain the following points:

  • It is morally unacceptable that Britain should abandon people who are at risk because they worked for British soldiers and diplomats.
  • This country will be shamed if any more Iraqis are murdered for the ‘crime’ of having supported UK forces.
  • Iraqis who worked for British forces should not be told to leave Iraq and throw themselves on the mercy of United Nations relief agencies in Arab countries: these agencies are already being overwhelmed by the outflow of Iraqi refugees, and Iraqi refugees who have worked for British diplomats or troops may well be targeted by local jihadists.
  • There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq kill the families of those they consider ‘enemies’: for this reason we must extend the right of asylum to the families of those who worked for us.
  • It is entirely practical for this country’s troops in Iraq, and its embassies in neighbouring countries, to take in Iraqis who have worked for us and fly them to the UK. Indeed, there is already considerable anger among British servicemen that Iraqis are being abandoned in this way.
  • This country is large enough and rich enough to accommodate several thousand Iraqi refugees. Denmark has already given asylum to all 200 Iraqis who worked for its smaller occupying force.
  • It does not matter what your MP’s views (or what your views) are on the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. People who risked their lives for this country’s soldiers are now being abandoned by the British Government. Their lives can and must be saved by their being granted the right of asylum in this country.
  • This policy should be implemented regardless of whether British soldiers stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. But it must be introduced soon: applications for asylum cannot be processed in a lengthy fashion, as the security situation in Basra is deteriorating rapidly, and delay is likely to lead to further killings of Iraqis who worked for British troops.

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There is also a petition you can sign at the Downing Street website – go on, you know you should.

As the suggestion has been made that we should tag other bloggers with this, I’m going to be really cheeky and tag Tom Watson.

  • While I support the right of the translators to come to the UK I do not think their immigration should be on the basis of asylum. Asylum is not judged on the basis of ‘worthiness’ and is not a political judgment; it’s a legal one, and it’s wrong to suggest (as this petition does) that the government intervene in the legal process in order to grant asylum to a group simply because they are considered worthy. That is political interference in a judicial process.

    The political authorities do have the ability to direct that applications for British residency and naturalisation be accepted from a particular group. This is the way the Gurkha VC was admitted and is what should happen here.

  • Cal

    What does a Ghurkha VC have in common with an Iraqi translator? A VC is awarded for service to the crown that is above and beyond the call of duty, i.e. NOT what you get paid for. Iraqi translators choose to undertake a dangerous job for cash incentives, which makes them more like deep-sea divers than Ghurkha heroes.

    Unfortunately, although the Ghurkha VC has a valid moral claim to UK residence, neither group of people have aright to asylum, because UN charter on refugees states that people can only seek asylum in the closest safe country.

  • This campaign is very interesting to me. The way that Unity has generalised out from the particular case of the translators and the old Gurkha VC hero makes it even more so.

    As I understand it there are currently 7,000 Black African soldiers in the British Army. They have no guarantee of any such thing as asylum, leave to remain or anything of that ilk should they wish it when their time is up.

    There are also some ex-South African Army bods under the command and did they not have a story that they HAD been promised citizenship … denied by the Army with some talk of a general rule for all these soldiers.

    Then there was old Boris Piffle’s constituent whose old Rhodesian Dad or Grandad or some such used to fight for us some while ago that Bo-Jo and a crew of wild-eyed Tories thought was a shoo-in.

    Back to the case of the translators is it a case of citizenship, ELR, asylum, or just sanctuary until Iraq is safe? And is it only translators that get targeted for helping? In Ireland all kinds of civilians who took roles around the Army used to get threatened, beaten and sometimes killed.

  • Robert Crowston

    The honourable men and women who have served in our Army, Navy, or Air Force for many years (say, 25) should be granted full British citizenship without hesitation if it is requested, providing they have served with honour, together with their immediate family. The simple reason being, they have served us and proven their loyalty to us more than many who have citizenship by grace of birth. It is not a question of asylum, but one of fair reward. Our communities can hardly be split by a few extra men who are well versed in British custom, tradition, etiquette, and comradeship by virtue of their profession; indeed, there are some in this country who could do with reminder of such concepts. There can be no argument, though apparently there is, that these people are far more deserving of a place on our shores than many others who nonetheless claim them.

    As for the Iraqis who have served us for a couple of years or a few months, I can see both sides of the argument. However, if their liaison officers are suitably impressed with their commitment, this should be enough for at least a temporary leave to remain.

  • epsilon

    Non-British Officers and Men who have served in the Forces are entitled anyway to receive British citizenship after a certain number of years service.

    This post may have achieved the impossible- and put me on the Left of Unity. I have grave fears that to offer asylum or citizenship to such Iraqis would not only create a certain precedent; but is not deserved. They are being paid handsomely to take what is a terrible risk. But such payments deliver this country’s duty to them in full. We should not be in Iraq- for the same reason that we should be in Afghanistan for as long as the UN mandate holds- and I would bridle at rewarding people who might be seen with enmity by the vast majority of Iraqis.

    There is a precedent. Irish- domiciled British citizens and Crown workers who left Ireland fearing for their safety in 1922, received a lump sum and annuity from the British Government and particularly so if they have left land and investments behind. This was particularly the case for Tans, Auxillaries and Dublin Castle staff. But no payments were made to others- in many cases, police moved from the RIC or Dublin Police to the new Garda in just a change of uniforms.

    I feel guilty about what the consequences for many of them may be. But war is a brutal pastime- they did not have to sign up to participate in it.

  • Paul Porter

    people can only seek asylum in the closest safe country

    No, the *first* safe country they come to. So if their way out of their country is a plane that isn’t disembarking until the UK, the UK is where they seek asylum.

  • Cal

    And that would only be the case if these asylum seekers flew directly to the UK from their home country, which would invalidate the claims of a massive percentage, probably the vast majority, of people in the UK who have actually been granted asylum, proving that the government has committed a gross act of fraud on the British public.

    BTW, I find it very interesting that liberal lefties actually know the correct terms of the charter in precise detail but continue to maintain a deathly silence in public, nice admission!