New defence minister makes Afghan interpreters top priority

Nicolai Wammen is trying to track down information about interpreters who worked for the Danish forces so they can be informed of the right to seek help

The newly-appointed defence minister, Nicolai Wammen (Socialdemokraterne), will meet with the head of an American security firm this week in the hope of tracking down 37 Afghan interpreters who were hired by the company to work with Danish forces. 

Danish forces used at least 195 Afghan interpreters who – under a deal the government struck with three opposition parties in May – may be entitled to asylum in Denmark depending on the risks they face.

But as of early August, the Defence Ministry acknowledged that only 17 interpreters had so far applied for asylum, while the fates of the 37 interpreters hired by Mission Essential Personnel (MEP) were unknown as the US company has refused to answer requests for information.

The Defence Ministry was later criticised after Information newspaper revealed that their efforts to track down these 37 interpreters amounted to three emails and one phone call to MEP over the space of three months.

The former defence minister, Nick Hækkerup (Socialdemokraterne), said the number of interpreters who have sought help was acceptable, while the military defence command, Forsvarskommandoen, stated that tracking down interpreters could put their lives at further risk of reprisal.

But now that Wammen has replaced Hækkerup as defence minister, he has promised to do more to help the interpreters.

Wammen flew to Washington today, where he will meet with US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel on Wednesday. The two are expected to discuss the continued co-operation between the Danish and US military forces following the end of NATO’s mission in Afghanistan. According to the Defence Ministry, the two leaders will also discuss energy security and green energy issues.

But Wammen is also using his trip to meet with the head of MEP in order to procure information about the interpreters so that they can be found and informed of their right to apply for assistance.

“I placed this case as a top priority after becoming minister and the good news is that we are now in touch with the company and [on Tuesday] I am travelling to the US where I will meet with the head of MEP,” Wammen told Ritzau. “I hope this case will be closed as soon as we contact those interpreters who have worked for Denmark through the American company and inform them of their rights.”

  • How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    How internationals can benefit from joining trade unions

    Being part of a trade union is a long-established norm for Danes. But many internationals do not join unions – instead enduring workers’ rights violations. Find out how joining a union could benefit you, and how to go about it.

  • Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals in Denmark rarely join a trade union

    Internationals are overrepresented in the lowest-paid fields of agriculture, transport, cleaning, hotels and restaurants, and construction – industries that classically lack collective agreements. A new analysis from the Workers’ Union’s Business Council suggests that internationals rarely join trade unions – but if they did, it would generate better industry standards.

  • Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    Novo Nordisk overtakes LEGO as the most desirable future workplace amongst university students

    The numbers are especially striking amongst the 3,477 business and economics students polled, of whom 31 percent elected Novo Nordisk as their favorite, compared with 20 percent last year.