BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Wednesday, 8 August 2007, 08:59 GMT 09:59 UK
Lost in translating
Iraqi interpreter
Iraqi interpreters are becoming a target for militia groups
Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said a review will take place regarding the issue of Iraqi interpreters who have been told they will not be given preferential treatment over their claims for asylum in the UK.

The interpreters have said they live in fear for their lives because they are seen as traitors by local militias for helping out the foreign armed forces.

One translator, who has asked to remain anonymous, worked for the British Army in Basra for three years. He is now in Syria after fleeing Iraq in March this year when he became afraid of being targeted by militia groups.

He said: "I put my whole life in danger. I didn't imagine it was going to be like this.

"I didn't imagine the British Government is going to abandon me like this."

The translator said he was turned away from the British embassy in Damascus when he went to ask for asylum in the UK.

"When I arrived in Damascus I went to the British embassy but unfortunately the guards didn't let me in.

"They said 'we are not allowed to let you in'. Even when I showed them my documents from the Army they said 'we don't care because we don't have any instructions to let you in'."

I can't go home because [the militias] know me well and they will punish me for what I have done
Former translator

He said he wanted to ask about his future and to apply for asylum.

"I cannot go home, because I'll be dead", he said.

He said he worked last year with British forces involved with a "special unit [for] detention operations" in Basra.

"I've done lots of operations with them, and the militias are looking for me now.

"My close friend has been assassinated last month. He was working with me."

Blair plea

The translator said he had tried to seek support from the highest diplomatic and military levels.

"I've sent an email to my friend and my boss, and he said he will support me. I sent a letter to former Prime Minister Tony Blair, complaining and applying for asylum."

He said the response from Mr Blair was "unexpected".

He said: "He didn't reply to my letter and my request. He sent it to the Home Office and they replied on behalf of him.

"The reply said they don't have any record of me at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Iraqi interpreter and British soldier
Interpreters in Iraq provide a vital service for the British Army

"Of course they don't, because they didn't let me in to the embassy."

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

The translator said the Danish were "a lot more generous than the British" and that this was a "shame on the British government".

He said: "The Danish have less than 500 soldiers and the British they have more than that number.

"The Danish procedures were great when they decided to offer asylum to their interpreters.

"I can't go home because [the militias] know me well and they will punish me for what I have done."





FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

PRODUCTS & SERVICES

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific