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Afghanistan: Locally Employed Civilians

Volume 602: debated on Thursday 19 November 2015

Following our announcement of the start of the drawdown of British forces in Afghanistan on 19 December 2012, the Government established redundancy and intimidation schemes for their current and former Afghan local staff. The scheme recognises the vital role locally employed staff played in working with us to achieve a more secure, stable and prosperous country.

I want to update the House on two important changes I am making to our intimidation policy. These should enable us to investigate claims of intimidation better, and to reassure the House and the public that our investigations are conducted in an effective and professional manner.

First, in order to address the concerns of our armed forces, veterans and Government officials who have served in Afghanistan, the MOD is setting up a dedicated email address which will enable those who have worked with Afghan local staff to report concerns over the welfare of specific individuals.

Our dedicated investigative team in the country will look into each concern and, where possible, confirm the welfare of the former local staff member. If they raise a concern it will be investigated by our team in Kabul, who have already supported over 330 people in country, providing financial support to enable 30 to move to a safer location within Afghanistan. If the local staff member consents, we will aim to provide reassurance to those contacting us that their former colleague is safe.

This email address gives our people direct access to the investigative teams and should become the first step for all of those concerned about their former colleagues. More information on the email address can be found at:

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/supporting-uk-locally-employed-staff-in-afghanistan.

Second, to provide further assurance that the policy is being delivered acceptably I have decided that we will establish an assurance committee. This will reflect on the application of the policy in a cross-section of cases and make recommendations on how the policy could be improved. The committee will be made up of people with relevant expertise, including a former interpreter who is relocating to the UK under the redundancy scheme. He will provide a direct interpreter perspective on what the process is like for former local staff and the challenges they face in Afghanistan.

This is in addition to steps we have already taken to ensure the professionalism and independence of the policy: investigation of intimidation claims is undertaken by highly trained police officers either from the MOD police or seconded from Home Office constabularies: the legal adviser for decisions in Afghanistan is independent —the current post-holder is Danish; and, to provide further assurance, an independent barrister assessed the first 160 or so cases and will assess 20% of future case decisions to ensure the policy is being applied correctly.

The UK is committed to supporting our former local staff. We are taking reasonable steps to protect them when they are at risk because of their work for us. I am confident that the Government are meeting their responsibility through these comprehensive arrangements.

[HCWS318]