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:
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.
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.