WE CAN’T TURN THEM AWAY

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Since British troops occupied Southern Iraq in the spring of 2003, thousands
of Iraqi citizens have worked for the British Army, the Coalition
Provisional Authority (South) and for contractors serving UK forces. There
is now considerable evidence that their lives, and the lives of their
families, are at risk: some former workers for the British have been
murdered, and many others have fled to neighbouring countries or gone into
hiding in Basra. The British Government, for whom they were ultimately
working, has not offered them the right of asylum in the UK. This is morally
unacceptable. It is also unnecessary, since we are well able to accommodate
several thousand Iraqi refugees, most of whom already speak English and all
of whom have already worked for our country.

The most detailed recent report, by Jonathan Miller of Channel Four
news, notes the murder of 17 translators in one single incident in Basra. It
cites the cases of hundreds of others who have fled to a refugee
existence in nearby Middle Eastern countries or are in hiding in Iraq.

The British Government response has come from the Home Office, which has
suggested that Iraqis put at risk by their work for British troops ‘register
with the UN refugee agency’.
Marie Colvin’s report for the Times of April 8 speaks of desperate former
workers for the British Army being turned away from the British embassy in
Syria by staff who had orders not to admit any Iraqis. These brave men and
women have testimonials written by British officers
**
If you feel that this is unacceptable and that Britain should prevent Iraqis
from being murdered for the ‘crime’ of working for British troops, could you
please write to your MP and ask him or her to press the Government for
action. You can use the excellent website ‘Write to Them’ (
http://www.writetothem.com/ ) or post a letter yourself.

Please be courteous when writing to your MP. It would be a good idea to read
the reports above, and cite relevant facts. We would suggest that your
letter could contain the following points:

– It is morally unacceptable that Britain should abandon people who
are at risk because they worked for British soldiers and diplomats.
– This country will be shamed if any more Iraqis are murdered for the
‘crime’ of having supported UK forces.
– Iraqis who worked for British forces should not be told to leave
Iraq and throw themselves on the mercy of United Nations relief agencies in
Arab countries: these agencies are already being overwhelmed by the outflow
of Iraqi refugees, and Iraqi refugees who have worked for British diplomats
or troops may well be targeted by local jihadists.
– There is plentiful evidence that armed groups in Iraq kill the
families of those they consider ‘enemies’: for this reason we must extend
the right of asylum to the families of those who worked for us.
– It is entirely practical for this country’s troops in Iraq, and its
embassies in neighbouring countries, to take in Iraqis who have worked for
us and fly them to the UK. Indeed, there is already considerable anger among
British servicemen that Iraqis are being abandoned in this way.
– This country is large enough and rich enough to accommodate several
thousand Iraqi refugees. Denmark has already given asylum to all 200 Iraqis
who worked for its smaller occupying force.
– It does not matter what your MP’s views (or what your views) are on
the invasion and subsequent occupation of Iraq. People who risked their
lives for this country’s soldiers are now being abandoned by the British
Government. Their lives can and must be saved by their being granted the
right of asylum in this country.
– This policy should be implemented regardless of whether British
soldiers stay in Iraq or are soon withdrawn. But it must be introduced soon:
applications for asylum cannot be processed in a lengthy fashion, as the
security situation in Basra is deteriorating rapidly, and delay is likely to
lead to further killings of Iraqis who worked for British troops.

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