Few interpreters seeking asylum

August 7th, 2013

This article is more than 10 years old.

The defence minister said that the early applications of 17 of 195 interpreters show that the government’s interpreter plan is working

Just 17 out of the 195 interpreters who have worked for the Danish forces during the conflict in Afghanistan have applied for asylum in Denmark, according to information from the Defence Ministry.

Seven have applied directly to the ministry, while ten have applied via the Danish Embassy in Kabul.

Despite the seemingly low number of applications, the defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), is pleased that the government's plan for handling interpreters is bearing fruit.

“[Seventeen] is a lot because the system has only just been established and it lends support to the notion that letting the interpreters contact us themselves is a system that works,” Hækkerup told DR Nyheder.

The Afghan interpreter plan, which was revealed by the Defence Ministry in late May, allows Afghan interpreters who have worked with Danish forces to apply for asylum and states that those interpreters who are considered "particularly threatened" could be granted asylum in Denmark. The plan was supported by all parties in parliament with the exception of Dansk Folkeparti and Enhedslisten. But the strategy has been criticised by former deployed soldiers who say that the interpreters may be too frightened to show up at the embassy in Kabul.

“The agreement is useless. Information about the interpreters could be sold, revealing the face, name and perhaps the location of the interpreter,”  former sergeant Peter Skjerbæk told Ritzau news service.

But Hækkerup contends that the Danish agreement (here in English) is the best way forward.

“If we were to travel around Afghanistan looking for all the interpreters, it would be a considerable risk to them. If we go to a village and ask if the interpreter feels threatened, we risk exposing them to the Taleban, so it’s best that they contact us instead,” Hækkerup said.

The news comes just days after it was revealed that the defence ministry has scant information about one fifth of the 195 interpreters who worked for the Danish forces.

The 37 interpreters in question were hired via the private US firm Mission Essential Personnel, which has failed to respond to requests from the Danish defence.

The Afghan interpreter agreement is valid until the end of 2015.


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