"Get out or die"

More on the isue of asylum for Iraqi interpreters. Martin Fletcher reports for The Times in Iraq:

Iraqi interpreters working for the British Army have been advised to leave Basra or be killed.

The warning was issued by a leading member of the city’s security forces after militiamen attacked and destroyed the home of one interpreter and narrowly failed to kidnap another. There were unconfirmed reports yesterday that a third had been killed.

“All the interpreters have to leave Basra because these militia will never let them rest. They will kill everybody they know [who worked for the British],” Colonel Saleem Agaa Alzabon, who leads Basra’s special forces, said. “The interpreters have to leave. They have no choice.”

Chatting to people about this issue, one genuine concern is that it will effectively “open the floodgates” to an unmanageable number of refugees from war-torn countries. As I’ve said previously, I think one response to this is that just such a torrent (to continue the slightly uneasy water metaphor) is one of the many prices we pay when we go to war. Alongside ‘force-depletion’ figures (predictions for how many of our own soldiers will be killed and wounded in any given attack), the Prime Minister should also examine predictions for refugee figures, how many locals will be employed directly by our forces. The cost of accomodating these people and their families should be factored into the cost of a war. They’ll cost less than the price of a new Tornado, I’ll wager.

“Ah, but refugees are a burden, and Tornado is useful in winning the war!” comes the cry. True, but then, so are interpreters and support staff. Actually, a Tornado is only useful at winning a conventional air war against a recognisable, conventional army. Interpreters are surely key to succeeding when we become embroiled in an unconventional, guerilla insurgency. If we send out the message that the British leave their allies high-and-dry, then we will soon find that the well of linguists dries up when we intervene in future conflicts. (See how I turned that water metaphor around?) How many of our soldiers speak Iranian, or Sudanese Arabic?

As trailed previously, Dan Hardie has arranged a meeting for MPs to discuss the urgent issue of the Iraqi Interpreters, on October 9th. Why not write to your own MP and ask them to attend?

Update

Blood & Treasure points out that the Syrians have introduced new restirctions on their border, meaning a key escape route for fleeing Iraqis is now sealed off. Also via Chicken Yoghurt, CuriousHamster has an amusing snippet of of satire.

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