Letting in the Iraqi employees

I went last night to the meeting at Parliament in support of Iraqis employed by British forces in Iraq and their quest for asylum. Everyone who attended the meeting , I think all would agree, came away with three things; firstly, that David Miliband's actions are a start but are nowhere near enough; secondly, that the situation is both desperate and urgent; and that Britain has a moral obligation and a practical necessity that should motivate quick, deliberate action.

The announcement made by Mr Miliband falls on a couple of counts. Firstly, the length of time served should be irrelevant - UK plc put these people up to it and they are in danger as a result. Secondly, there are lots of people who have worked for more than twelve months for the British in Iraq but in six month batches for different regiments on rotation as part of TELIC.

Mark Brockway's well-informed and emotional speech shows the depth of the problem; people are at risk and dying now and delays for any reason are unacceptable. The breadth of knowledge that he and Andrew Alderson showed of the reality on the ground and how people might be practically helped in leaving, including verification processes, was remarkable and I hope that they will be heard by the Government. As many people commented, the Danish put us to shame - when they withdrew from Iraq, they took all their people with them and worried about paperwork later.

The moral case is overwhelming; we are the reason for these people being in danger and we have the capacity to help them. Practically, failure to act will further damage the reputation of the UK in the area and make it harder for us to recruit local people to help us in Afghanistan, where we appear to be committed for some years to come, and any other conflicts we may end up in going forward.

Evidently, no planning was given to ongoing support for Iraqis who worked for Britain in Iraq; apparently this was also the case in the Balkans. When we have found a resolution to the current problem, we shall have to keep up the pressure to prevent it happening again; everyone agreed that, in the future, there should be clear contracts that set out the responsibilities of both parties.

Thanks must go to the three MPs who spoke on the panel, Chris Bryant (Labour, Rhondda), Lynne Featherstone (LibDem, Hornsey & Wood Green) and Ed Vaizey (Con, Wantage), as well as to Julian Brazier MP (Con, Canterbury) who spoke from the floor and the other MPs who came in for some of the meeting, as well as to The Times for their support of this campaign. I think that everyone took on board that the twelve-month rule is unfair and unworkable and that further action is necessary.

I found the most moving speech of the night to be that of an Iraqi exile, talking about his experiences and the death of his loved ones for having worked for the UK. Like many other interpreters, he was an educated, erudite person who only wanted and only wants to rebuild his country.




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