Danish veterans accuse government of failing their Afghan interpreters

Reuters News
Posted: May 18, 2015 11:55 AM

COPENHAGEN (Reuters) - Danish military veterans have accused their government of breaking its promise to grant asylum to all local interpreters who helped the country's soldiers during their deployment in Afghanistan.

In an open letter, the veterans said interpreters wore the Danish flag on their shoulders and served the country by helping them gather vital intelligence on potential Taliban ambushes.

The government promised asylum when Danish troops began to withdraw in 2013. Of the 195 interpreters, 151 have asked about asylum in Denmark, 42 have been rejected outright and only six granted asylum, according to a December 2014 report from the Danish Institute of International Studies.

"We veterans and soldiers take it literally when you say that we don't leave anyone behind. Those words are a commitment!" the veterans said in a post on Facebook over the weekend. "In no way do we believe that the agreement and the way it has been implemented is true to the initial statement."

The Danish Defence Ministry, charged with giving asylum to interpreters, had no immediate comment.

Afghan interpreters who have worked for foreign armies fear reprisals from the Taliban, who are angered by their support of the foreign forces.

Britain faced similar criticism by veterans and the public in 2013, resulting in a petition with 82,000 signatories to the Foreign Office that called for Afghan interpreters to be offered asylum. Some 600 visas for interpreters were later granted.

The United States has allocated 4,000 visas for Afghan interpreters and others working in high-risk jobs, a total that support groups said was too low.

(Reporting by Alexander Tange; Editing by Tom Heneghan)