To provide a fresh start in life to an Afghan interpreter I served with who has been hunted by the Taliban and is now destitute in Calais.
About the project
I served with British Army in Afghanistan in 2011-2012 and 2013. While we were there we used local interpreters to help us. There is one interpreter I will always remember, Khushal.
He worked for me when I was serving in the Infantry of the British Army. He was fantastic at his job and liked by all that worked with him. We gave him the nickname 'Happy' for the cheerfulness with which he went about his dangerous work.
Happy always went the extra mile - on our first patrol he even offered to dig up IEDs for us!
But on one patrol in particular, while we were returning from looking for a Taliban cache, Happy drew my attention to some suspicious movement up ahead. We were walking along a compound wall at the time, so I asked my point man to cut away from the wall and across a field.
When we passed the end of the wall, the Taliban detonated a command-wire IED that could easily have killed three of us, myself included - and would have done, but for the fact we had changed course. In effect, Happy saved the life of a number of British soldiers with that one action alone.
After I left Helmand, he continued in his dangerous work, cheerfully facing death on a daily basis. He did so well, that on one occasion, he was asked to patrol with some special forces who were an interpreter short.
They asked him to carry a weapon because of the particularly dangerous nature of the job and during the course of the patrol Happy did as he was told and defended his life by firing against the Taliban.
Because of this action - simply following an order - he became unpopular with some other interpreters who were jealous of him and ended up getting into a fist fight with another interpreter.
So he had to leave his job despite having served constantly for over two years receiving only the highest reports!
Back in his Taliban controlled home-town, the local Talibs ordered his family to reject him and tell them his location. When they did not comply, they killed Happy’s older brother.
Worse was to follow: Happy’s mother blamed him for the death and has refused to speak to him since: the rest of his family cannot risk talking to him for fear of the Taliban: and even in Kabul, he was a hunted man.
He applied to the British to be given a VISA for the UK. He did not qualify under David Cameron’s scheme because he had not been serving at the end of 2012. But under another scheme to protect interpreters who were suffering intimidation, Happy should have been looked after.
However, the process took more than a year and half, during which Happy had to constantly move around and live in fear. To pass the criteria for intimidation, the officials needed to carry out checks in his home area. However, his home village was far too dangerous for the British or Afghan officials to visit. So Happy was caught in an endless and ridiculous catch-22!
I wrote a number of letters in support of his application but nothing was done. Eventually, the situation became critical and in the freezing middle of winter, Happy began the incredibly long and arduous journey from Afghanistan to Europe.
- In Baluchistan, he was shot at by bandits and robbed by fellow migrants.
- In Iran he was kidnapped and held in a prison run by a gang.
- In Turkey his feet were lacerated crossing the border and he was exploited as rag and bone man for two miserable months.
- On the way to Greece, his overfilled boat almost sank with women and children on board.
- In Italy he was beaten by the police who sent him back to Greece where he was imprisoned.
- On release he walked and hitched most of the way through Northern Europe.
- He is now stuck in Calais, unable to get into the UK.
Why should he come to the UK? I know many feel we have a problem with immigration, but this is a man who loves and has effectively served our country. He doesn’t speak any other languages than English and he has friends here. If we are going to let anyone in, it should be this guy!
Currently he is penniless anddestitute in Calais: so please, if you can, donate a couple of pounds to the fund I am raising for him. It is not much money but will make a huge difference in his current situation.