Britain employs 600 Iraqis who might need asylum, not 20,000
Richard Beeston, Deborah Haynes and Michael Evans
The Times Online
August 9, 2007
Six hundred Iraqis would be eligible to settle in Britain if asylum regulations were relaxed for those now working for British Forces.
The British military employs about 500 civilians in southern Iraq in jobs from interpreters to drivers and cleaners. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office employs about 100 local staff, mainly at the embassy in Baghdad.
The figures were disclosed after Des Browne, the Defence Secretary, said that about 20,000 Iraqi civilians had worked for the Ministry of Defence since 2003.
Mr Browne, speaking as Whitehall officials began a review of policy towards local staff in Iraq, said that the Government recognised its duty of care towards its Iraqi employees, but drew attention to the scale and complexity of the issue. He also said that a result from the review which involves the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence, the Home Office and the Cabinet Office should not be expected for several weeks.
The review was ordered by the Prime Minister after revelations in The Times that Iraqi interpreters, at great risk of persecution, were being offered no special protection by Britain as it withdraws its forces from the country. Those regarded most at risk are the 91 Iraqi interpreters who work alongside British troops and who have been the target of repeated attacks and threats but who do not qualify for any special treatment.
The challenge facing officials is to propose a formula that protects those in danger in Iraq but does not give every former employee an automatic right to settle in Britain with their dependants. The move could have ramifications for others around the world, for instance interpreters working for British Forces in southern Afghanistan.
J. Kaiby, one interpreter, has been forced to live at Britains military headquarters in Basra after an armed gang raided his house last month and told his wife that they knew about his job. He said: Of course the cleaners receive threats. Anyone who works for the coalition forces in whatever way is under the threat of an attack. It is a very bad situation.
Those who purely worked on the British bases and never interacted with the public, however, said that the level of the threat against them was not as great as for those who travelled outside with British troops.
Adnan Abu Mohammed, 58, worked as a cleaner on a British base between 2005 and last year but he resigned after one colleague was murdered and several others received intimidating messages.
Also I was worried about the signs on the walls around the city that read, Stop working with the British or we will kill you, said Mr Mohammed, who, like everyone The Times spoke to, declined to give his full name for fear of being recognised. I was afraid that I would be killed or someone from my family would be killed.
The US grants special immigration status to all translators working with its troops in recognition of the unique risk of retaliation that they face.
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