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Last Updated: Tuesday, 7 August 2007, 16:22 GMT 17:22 UK
Interpreters 'abandoned' in Iraq
Iraqi interpreter and British soldier
Some say the US and UK have a duty of care when interpreters are threatened
Iraqi interpreters who have risked their lives to help UK forces will not get asylum, a report has claimed.

Whitehall officials ignored appeals by high-ranking army officers for asylum to be given to 91 interpreters and their families, according to the Times.

BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner says interpreters are marked men who "face a horrific death".

The MoD says it considers requests for help from serving or ex-employees on their "individual merits".

'Cold shoulder'

However, the Times reported that one appeal for asylum was rejected even though it was accompanied by a glowing recommendation from a British commanding officer.

As a matter of honour, we have to look after them
William Hague
Shadow foreign secretary

The letter reached former Downing Street foreign policy adviser Nick Banner, who told the Iraqi to apply via the government website and to another country.

Frank Gardner said: "It seems from what the Times are saying that they're getting the cold shoulder.

"That the government is essentially saying: 'Sorry, we can't make exceptions for these people, despite the enormous sacrifices they have made.'

He said the interpreters face two levels of danger: that experienced while on patrol, and the consequences of being seen as collaborators.

"Anybody associated with the coalition, government ministries, and so on, they're all seen as traitors by the militias.

"Not just by al-Qaeda in the Sunni areas, but by the Shia militias in the south."

'Genuine case'

The United States has said it will accept 7,000 Iraqis in the coming year, and after Denmark withdrew its troops, it granted asylum to 60 Iraqis and their families.

Shadow foreign secretary William Hague said: "As a matter of honour, we have to look after them one way or the other if they have a genuine case."

An MoD spokesman said the government took the safety of local people who work for them "very seriously".

He said "In operational theatres, we consider any specific requests for assistance from serving or ex-employees on their individual merits."


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