Almost fourteen years have now passed since the invasion of Afghanistan, strange though it is to think. When British troops arrived in that country amid dramatic images on the news bulletins, the Millennium Dome was still a relatively recent creation and the idea of smartphones as we know them now was the stuff of science fiction. It seems like quite a different time already and in many ways it was.
Recalling just how long has passed since the decisions of those febrile days is a way of looking at the question of Afghan translators who worked with our Armed Forces over the years. Some did so for what proved substantial lengths of time. All did so at real risk to their lives. As Colonel Bob Kemp highlights, our local translators in the field in Afghanistan did much more than simply provide a bridge across the language barrier for our soldiers. They provided a lot of the crucial local know-how which helped units to be more aware of approaching dangers, drawing on the sort of sixth sense feel of a place that only someone from an area can reliably offer.
To be blunt, we in Britain have betrayed many of these people. Today’s newspapers carry new reports on a recurring issue. Afghan translators who have proved invaluable and of great courage alongside our forces have been refused the right to come to our country despite continuing attempts in their lives by the Taliban.
This is now a matter of national honour. Nobody need concede any ground on the importance of defending our borders and policing the rules responsibly to see that it is so. The law must absolutely be enforced, and, where weak, tightened. The flows of illegal immigration into Europe and towards Britain only make that more urgent.
But deserting men who have effectively served with our Armed Forces when their own lives are now in danger is no part of any honourable asylum or migration system.
The Afghan translators who helped this country in the field and whose lives are now in jeopardy are people we should be proud to accept to this country.