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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 16:14 GMT
Threatened Iraqis to settle in UK
Iraqi interpreter and British soldier
Interpreters fear being targeted by local militia if they stay in Iraq
Some 2,000 Iraqis may be flown to Britain from next month to start a new life under a 25m government programme.

Interpreters and other staff who have worked for the UK government are being offered a one-off payment or the chance to settle in the UK with their family.

About 50 Iraqis, many of whom fear for their lives in their homeland, are due to arrive on the first flight in April.

The Home Office said they would spend two days in Slough, Berkshire, before being resettled outside the south-east.

The new arrivals will be given help finding accommodation and settling down from Migrant Helpline, a charity which provides advice and support to asylum seekers and refugees in the UK.

Risking lives

Slough Council is understood to be preparing for a possible increase in demand for mental health services for people who find relocating traumatic, and is reviewing its translation and interpreting services.

Ruth Bagley, Slough council's chief executive, said it was possible some Iraqis may choose to stay in the area.

However, the Home Office said it did not expect them to stay in south-east England.

The direct entry assistance scheme is intended to support those who worked for British forces and the Foreign Office in Iraq, in many cases putting their lives in danger.

Only those that were working on a date last August and had been doing so for more than one year are eligible.

Those that meet the criteria are being given the option of indefinite leave to remain in the UK or a financial package for themselves and their dependents.

The relocation package includes temporary accommodation for three months.

'Special treatment' row

A Home Office spokesman said it was still at the very early stages of assessing eligibility but suggested the number of Iraqis given indefinite leave to stay in the UK could be up to 2,000.

So far, of the 46 cases that have been fully processed, nine expressed an interest in applying for indefinite leave to remain, while 37 opted for the financial package, he added.

The government's support for Iraqi workers follows a row last summer after a group of Iraqi interpreters in Basra were told they would not be given special treatment when applying for asylum in the UK.

They said their lives were in danger because they were seen as traitors by local militia and accused the British government of failing in its duty of care.

Last year, Defence Secretary Des Browne said about 20,000 Iraqis had helped British forces since 2003.

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