Our duty to Iraqis

By Stephen Pollard
July 24, 2007

I get a fair number of emails asking me to post this and endorse that. Many are useful; some are awful. But this one from Dan Hardie, asking me to reproduce a post, struck a chord:


Since British troops occupied Southern Iraq in the spring of 2003, thousands of Iraqi citizens have worked for the British Army, the Coalition Provisional Authority ()South) and for contractors serving UK forces. There is now considerable evidence that their lives, and the lives of their families, are at risk: some former workers for the British have been murdered, and many others have fled to neighbouring countries or gone into hiding in

Basra . The British Government, for whom they were ultimately working, has not offered them the right of asylum in the . This is morally unacceptable. It is also unnecessary, since we are well able to accommodate several thousand Iraqi refugees, most of whom already speak English and all of whom have already worked for our country.

The most detailed recent report, by Jonathan Miller of Channel Four News, , notes the murder of 17 translators in one single incident in

Basra . It cites the cases of hundreds of others who have fled to a refugee existence in nearby Middle Eastern countries or are in hiding in .

The British Government response has come from the Home Office, which has suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for British troops 'register with the UN refugee agency'. Other reports provide supporting detail: Iraqis are being targeted for murder because they have worked for British forces.

Marie Colvin's report speaks of desperate former workers for the British Army being turned away from the British embassy in by staff who had orders not to admit any Iraqis. These brave men and women have testimonials written by British officers

If you feel that this is unacceptable and that should prevent Iraqis from being murdered for the 'crime' of working for British troops, could you please write to your MP and ask him or her to press the Government for action. You can use the excellent website 'Write to Them' or post a letter yourself.

Please be courteous when writing to your MP. It would be a good idea to read the reports above, and cite relevant facts. We would suggest that your letter could contain the following points:

  • It is morally unacceptable that 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 forces.

  • Iraqis who worked for British forces should not be told to leave 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 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 , and its embassies in neighbouring countries, to take in Iraqis who have worked for us and fly them to the . 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. 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 . 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 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.


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