A scheme designed to support bringing Afghans who helped British troops during conflict to the UK is not fit for purpose, former army chiefs have warned.
Hundreds of Afghans, including about 130 interpreters, have been rejected by the Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (Arap), which is designed to give those who supported the British Army fast-track entry to Britain.
The programme was introduced this year to help as Nato forces withdrew from the country.
Many face retribution from the Taliban for working with coalition forces during the conflict. MP Johnny Mercer described the rejections as an “abject moral failure”.
Writing in The Times, the group of 45 ex military officers and officials said they were gravely concerned the scheme was not being run with the required “spirit of generosity and urgency” and urged the prime minister to urgently review it.
They said: “The future of Afghanistan is parlous and so is the fate of our former Afghan interpreters and other locally employed staff.
“As former chiefs of staff and senior field commanders we are concerned that the Afghanistan Relocation and Assistance Programme is not being conducted with the required spirit of generosity and urgency.
“Too many of our interpreters have unreasonably been rejected. We urge the government to review the policy immediately.”
Under the current scheme interpreters are deemed ineligible for relocation if they were dismissed from their service with UK forces for “serious” incidents, which include theft or fraud.
Many have also been rejected because they were not employed directly by the UK army but through contractors. They were not allowed to appeal against their dismissal and the Ministry of Defence has not provided evidence of their alleged offences.
More than 2,000 Afghans and their families have arrived in the UK and more are expected.
However, the former army chiefs said that too many applications from interpreters were being “unreasonably rejected”.
The letter adds: “These individuals have stood shoulder to shoulder with us. We must now do the same for them.”
At least five interpreters have reportedly been murdered this year after working with coalition forces.
Mr Mercer, the former minister for veterans, submitted a parliamentary question asking how many applicants had been excluded. But the MoD refused to say, citing “operational security reasons”.
An MoD spokesman said: “Every dismissal was for a valid reason. The Arap scheme allows officials to review all cases of dismissal on a case-by-case basis and relocate them if there are no other concerns.
“Those who were dismissed for the most serious offences, including those that constitute a crime in the UK, or would be a security concern, will not be eligible for relocation.”