Afghan interpreters challenge High Court over assistance scheme


Two former interpreters who risked their lives working for British forces in Afghanistan have challenged a High Court ruling that the Government assistance scheme open to them is lawful.

The two Afghans -  regarded by the Taliban as ''infidel spies'' - claim that the current scheme is unfair and unlawful because, with certain exceptions, assistance is not available to staff who left British employment before December 2012.

They say they are being discriminated against and treated differently to Iraqi interpreters, who were all given assistance when their lives became endangered through assisting the British in the Iraq war.

They want the Afghan scheme to cover ''locally engaged staff'' employed by the Ministry of Defence (MoD) and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in Afghanistan before the 2012 cut-off date.

But, in July last year, Lord Justice Burnett and Mr Justice Irwin ruled that the "territorial reach" of the Equality Act 2010 was not such "as to include the claimants' circumstances".

They did not consider that there was any direct or indirect discrimination on the basis of nationality.

The decision was a defeat for a man only referred to as AL, who remains in hiding in Kabul, and Mohammed Rafi Hottak, who has now been granted asylum but still has family in Afghanistan.

Their counsel, Ben Jaffey, told the Court of Appeal on Tuesday that both gave "principled and brave" service as interpreters and, as a result, they and their families had suffered serious injuries in Taliban attacks and faced threats to their lives.

Before the two-day hearing, Rosa Curling from law firm Leigh Day said: "The majority of Iraqi interpreters offered relocation to the UK turned it down, but for those who were receiving death threats, the opportunity to relocate was a lifeline.

"Afghan interpreters deserve the same treatment."

Lady Justice Arden, Lord Justice David Richards and Sir Colin Rimer are expected to reserve their decision.