Four Afghan interpreters, who worked for the British army in Afghanistan and are currently in hiding after receiving death threats from the Taliban, have pleaded once again to the UK to grant them asylum.
All four were denied asylum in the UK because of a policy that restricts relocation for Afghans who worked in southern Helmand province, scene of some of the fiercest fighting in the country, between 2011 and 2012.
The men, who were awarded certificates of commendations and medals for their work, told Al Jazeera last week they served with the British army for several years in Helmand, but before the blocked out timeframe that the policy mentions.
The policy was introduced by Prime Minister Theresa May when she was home secretary.
“I’m scared. I’m sure that if they catch me, they will kill me,” said one interpreter, who refused to give his name for fear of reprisal.
“We have evidence of many interpreters who were killed. There is no difference for the Taliban. They will kill me one day.”
In 2015, an interpreter for US forces in Afghanistan was abducted, tortured and killed by the Taliban. The body of Sakhidad Afghan, who was awaiting a US visa, was left on a street in Kabul as a warning.
Another interpreter, who worked with British forces for four years – three of them in Helmand – said he had to flee home in the eastern Logar province with his wife and seven children because of threats from the Taliban.
“They will not talk to us. They will kill us straight away,” he said.
His wife said: “We have a lot of enemies. We are hiding and we are moving from one place to another. We are all in danger, including the children. We always worry about what will happen when we leave home because there are many Taliban spies around.”
British forces in Afghanistan employed 7,000 Afghan civilians. Half of those were interpreters. About 1,150, including dependents, have settled in the UK.
In comparison, the United States has granted asylum to more than 9,000 Afghans and 17,000 dependents.
“Why has the British government abandoned us?” asked one interpreter.
“Where are the human rights? Where are the high-ranking officers? They don’t care about us. Why doesn’t the British parliament care about us? Why have they a blind eye to us?”
Simon Diggins, a former British colonel, has condemned the UK policy.
“I think we treat them very badly. Interpreters gave their lives for us, people have been injured, they’ve been killed and without them, we couldn’t have done our work in Afghanistan. For them, I believe, we have a genuine debt of honour to them,” said Diggins.
Reporting by Tony Birtley