I’ve written on this in the past (as has John, and Jim Henley, and it’s been in the New Republic), but the situation is now urgent as well as serious – there is a very grave danger that the UK is preparing to sell its local employees in Iraq down the river, and the time to do something about it is now.
Iraqi interpreters used by the British Army and CPA South have already been hunted down by death squads. The British forces in and around Basra are no longer really sufficient to protect themselves, let alone their employees, as Channel 4 news details.
There really is no way of keeping these people safe while they are in Iraq, and they need to be kept safe. Quite apart from what one would call a “debt of honour” (the phrase is somewhat pompous, but accurately describes the situation), it never makes sense to get a reputation for abandoning one’s friends. Therefore, the Iraqi staff used by the British in Iraq need to be given asylum in the UK, along with their families.
This is not the current policy of the UK. The Home Office has simply suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for the British “register with the appropriate UN refugee agency”, joining the mountain of 2 million-plus refugees and IDPs already caused by the war. This simply isn’t good enough; the safety of Iraqis who are marked out as traitors by the insurgency can’t be guaranteed in the refugee camps either.
Denmark has already done the right thing, giving asylum to all 200 Iraqis who worked alongside their forces. The vast majority of the people concerned are already fluent English speakers and number only a few thousand, so we are not talking about a huge burden on the UK’s asylum system here – certainly nothing like the scale of the Ugandan Asian asylum operation, which is itself generally recognised to have been a massive net positive for the British economy and society.
British readers of CT ought to write to their MPs to ask them what they plan to do about this problem. It is best if you can write an individual letter, perhaps based on the set of bullet points over the fold, but if not, then the form letter on Dan Hardie’s blog is better than nothing (Update: the entire form letter is now also below the fold, after a burst of realism about how many readers you lose per click). I’ve also emailed my small set of contacts in the media about this story – as the links above show, to a large extent the “MSM” is already working on it, but anything we can do to keep it on the front pages will help. American readers of CT, well I guess you probably need to be thinking about how to organise something similar when your politicians start doing the same thing.
(other CT authors – can we leave this one up at the top of the page during Monday UK daytime please?)
bullet points for a letter to an MP (Dan H wrote these):
- 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.
and here’s the form letter, and a repeat of the Write To Them link.
Dear (MP’s name)
As your constituent, I am writing to discover your views on the treatment of Iraqi citizens who are working, or have worked, for the British Army, t he Coalition Provisional Authority, and contractors working for both organisations in the South of Iraq. In particular, I would like to know if you support the right of these people to indefinite asylum in the United Kingdom. I strongly suggest that they do indeed have this right. They have, by definition, put their lives at risk by the support they have given to British soldiers who were sent to war by a vote of the House of Commons.
Whether you- or I- supported or opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq is immaterial. The risk run by Iraqis working for British troops is even greater than that run by the soldiers themselves. British soldiers are now suffering very high casualties in Iraq, and are continuing to serve bravely- but the ir local staff are obliged to live among neighbours who will, in many cases, be sympathetic to or even belong to the armed groups fighting the British army. We owe these people a clear moral debt. We cannot allow them to be murdered for the ‘crime’ of helping our service men and women.
The most effective way of helping these brave Iraqis is to offer them indefinite right to remain in the United Kingdom. There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq make a practice of murdering not only their ‘enemies’ but their families too: and for this reason we must extend the right of asylum to the families of those who have worked with us. This policy should be enacted immediately whether our forces stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. Applications for asylum cannot be ‘processed’ in a lengthy fashion: the situation in Basra is deteriorating, the ability of British soldiers to protect those that work for them is seriously compromised and any delay is likely to lead to the murder of Iraqis who have worked for the British military.
I would appreciate your views on this matter.