Ethics & Morality

Bishop demands asylum for "the infidel's military translators"


“It seems to me that interpreters are like priests; they are mediators and help connect cultures and communities,” said the Rt Rev’d Alastair Redfern, Bishop of Derby, speaking in a House of Lords debate on the protection of foreign interpreters and military translators who routinely risk their lives to aid the British military in war zones. “In this case, they helped campaigns unfold properly and as planned. It is a key role.. a very risky role, on the front line.. and we must be thankful for the courage and commitment of those who sign up for it,” he explained.

Indeed we must. They are the forgotten heroes of our military exploits, especially in the ongoing ‘War on Terror’. They are like the code-breakers of Bletchley Park, deciphering political meaning and interpreting theological nuance: it is a secret intelligence, hence the need for pixelated anonymity. There’s only around 600 of them in total, and just 260 of these have applied for asylum in the UK – far fewer than the 583,000 who immigrated to the UK in 2014, most of whom, according to the ONS, did so “for work-related reasons”. Why do we welcome hundreds of thousands of ephemeral economic migrants to our shores every year, but abandon those who dedicate many years of faithful and loyal service to British military objectives? Who is the patriot? Who is the dependable friend and ally? Who is ‘one of us’?

Those who aid us in Islamic countries are particularly vulnerable to acts of vengeance against the “the infidel’s translators”. The Taliban especially are quite fond of beheading Western spies who betray Allah and sabotage jihad to aid the enemy conquest.

The Bishop of Derby pointed out that other countries are far more generous to their military translators: “Australia and the US seem to be offering quite a good deal compared to the one that we seem to have on the table,” he observed. In fact, the US and Germany routinely grant their interpreters asylum, mindful of the fact that their linguistic mission wins them no friends at home, and they risk their lives every day in exactly the same way as US and German armed forces, with the same bullets flying past their heads and identical bombs exploding beneath their feet. But we leave ours to fates worse than death, quite literally – to terror, torture, and the unimaginable anguish of having their children abducted, tormented and killed.

The British Government is betraying men like Popal, who was arrested in Iran and subsequently tortured and murdered, along with four other military translators. He was only 26, and served with the Parachute Regiment in Helmand. Yes, of course he knew the risks. But he clearly wanted to fight on the side of the good. God knows how many British lives he saved by negotiating behind enemy lines, intercepting communications and liaising with military intelligence. We have no legal obligation to return the good: there is no military contract. But there ought to be. Those who help us contend against the forces of evil by endangering their own lives deserve our protection in return. That is basic morality: do unto others, etc, as the Bishop explains:

The first key principle was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Patten, and it is moral obligation. We cannot suddenly stop caring for people who have played a key role in the war effort and been part of the enterprise, or stop our relationship when it suits us. We have created the relationship, we have worked together, and we have a moral obligation—an honour, as the noble Lord, Lord Patten, said—to fulfil.

But we don’t honour the obligation. We use the words that roll off the tips of their tongues, then hand them over to the enemy to be bound, gagged, and have their tongues cut out. If thousands of unqualified immigrants can come to Britain year after year, ostensibly to find employment, why can’t we welcome a few hundred expert linguists “for work-related reasons”?

Popal’s brother has also been killed. You can be an “infidel translator” by association. Their relatives are considered fair targets for summary meetings with knuckle-dusters. According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), therre has been a considerable increase in the number of “targeted assassinations” of “civilians perceived to be supporting international military forces and/or the Afghan Government”. According to the 2010 ‘Taliban Code of Conduct’ (yes, according to UNAMA there is such a thing), “the infidel’s translators” should be put to death. It is treacherous for them to live where they grew up, and equally treacherous for them to try and flee, often paying people smugglers thousands of dollars for a ticket to anywhere, but preferably Germany.

Apparently HM Government provides a secure ‘Intimidation Investigation Unit’ in Kabul, which functions as a kind of advisory embassy for harassed Afghans in the employ of British forces. But, you know bureaucracy. The interpreters and translators fill out their forms in perfect English, and they tell of the threats, beatings and vandalism visited upon them and their property. And then the forms are assessed by clerical staff, and reassessed by their managers in accordance with the ‘Intimidation of Locally Employed Staff: Policy Framework’. And a month later the applicant might be invited to plead their case to trained officials, who must then write a report based on traffic-light categorisation, which must then be corroborated by their managers. And months after that comes an answer – which is usually negative. No explanation: just ‘No’. It beggars belief that military translators who suffer bullying and death threats are classified ‘green’, but no one has to justify the decision, from which there is no appeal.

General Sir Mike Jackson, former head of the British Army, was among those who wrote an open letter to The Times a few years ago, arguing that Britain had a “moral obligation” to do more. And HM Government heard the plea and did do more. They provided aid through the ‘Ex-Gratia Scheme‘, but, again, it’s bureaucratic. The military translators fill in forms, specifying whether they want cash, retraining or asylum. But the latter option is available only to those who were actively employed by British forces on December 19th 2012, when the Prime Minister announced his intention to withdraw from Afghanistan. And that employment had to have been for a minimum of 12 months, and “frontline”. God help those military translators who had worked for a decade up to December 18th 2012; or those who had worked for just 11 months by December 19th but were continuing for the next three years; or those who had been beavering away with words and communication behind the frontline. None of them qualify for asylum in the UK.

Sorry, that’s not quite true: two have qualified. Not even the ‘Taliban Code of Conduct’ can beat British bureaucracy.

Conservative MPs agree with the Bishop of Derby. Richard Benyon, a member of the Defence Select Committee, said: “People find it hard to accept that we provide visas for economic migrants but do not give asylum for those who are in harm’s way because of the brave work they have done to support our troops.” Former defence minister Sir Gerald Howarth said: “It seems at best bizarre and at worse somewhat callous to refuse these guys a safe haven when others who have given no such service are allowed into Britain. These are people who have really made a critical difference to our Armed Forces.”

Well, quite. It’s obviously cheaper to leave our military translators to the Taliban.

But not much.

  • len

    Once again we talk of ‘morality’ (or rather the lack of it by the British Government)

    Who exactly decides exactly what is moral today in this day of’ no absolutes.’
    The West contributed to the Chaos in Iraq and Syria and then walked away and ‘left the inhabitants to the barbarous death cult known as ISIS and other terrorist groups.Now we turn immigrants away because they are an ‘ inconvenience ‘much as the interpretors are when they are of no further use..

    Morals what morals?

  • IanCad

    Bless you for bringing this to attention YG.
    How do we get rid of the faceless functionaries who uphold and execute these outrageous policies.
    Theresa May needs to get her priorities right.
    Heads must roll.

  • David

    I am so grateful to the Bishop for expressing very eloquently ideas thoughts that have been hurtling around in my head for some years now, and frustrating me greatly.
    Truly this is justice denied !
    Largely because of our membership of the EU our rules governing immigration are dysfunctional, illogical, irrational and totally broken. So any criminal from within the EU can swan in here and exploit us whilst the good the brave and the upstanding are locked out !
    It is deeply immoral, indeed treacherous in the extreme, to abandon these brave people to their fate, consigning their families to awful treatments, shame or even death. How could anyone do that ?
    Shame on you United Kingdom – why do you reject those who support you ?
    We are governed by desperately, cold, hard and immoral political leaders.
    There is no truth in them.
    This immoral position cannot be justified.
    Offer them sanctuary NOW !

  • alternative_perspective

    The behaviour of our nation is frankly atrocious. I’m left feeling less and less connected to our country and ever more alienated and disappointed. Morality is totally driven by political expedience and conformity to left wing liberal agendas.

    Whether it’s the creeping islamisation of our country, its inability to act justly to those in need, its distinct lack of honour and the reduction of meaning, truth, hope and aspiration to the atoms of sexual emancipation and economic growth – I find less and less to be proud of.

    There are still a few aspects of our public life worthy of praise but its becoming increasingly difficult to pin point these.

    What can the righteous do when the foundations are destroyed? ( my reading today )

    • David

      Well expressed. My feelings exactly.

  • dannybhoy

    Honour, integrity, courage, compassion and fair play were qualities we once automatically associated with “What it means to be British.”
    Those qualities are still to be found in our armed forces, but relatively unknown in government circles. In fact I am surprised that the Health and Safety Executive hasn’t yet banned them.
    Jobsworths, bean counters ,duckers and divers and ‘risk assessors’ have taken over the running of our country.
    I agreed with the lovely Joanna Lumley’s campaign to allow our loyal Gurkhas to settle here, and these Afghan interpreters deserve nay, are owed the same opportunities.
    We could always offer the Afghan some of our own home grown terrorists and hate preachers in return…

  • sarky

    We should be collectively ashamed for how we have treated these ‘heroes’. It just goes to show how broken our immigration system is when someone turning up in the back of a trailer is given the opportunity to claim asylum and all the protection and help that entails, whilst people like these are left to their own devices. We need someone to step forward and really change the tide of public opinion, like Joanna Lumley did with the Gurkas, so that our politicians are forced into giving these people the rights and protection they deserve.

    • We don’t even treat our ex soldiers and service men to a decent life afterwards ( You see some living out on the streets) so don’t expect that we would treat any foreign ‘heroes’ that give us assistance any better even if we did let them in which we wont because we are not allowed to operate a proper border system where we can chose who WE want in.

      • sarky

        And the govermnent wonders why there is a crisis in recruitment amongst the regular and reservist armed forces.
        I just wonder what has to happen before we start treating our ex servicemen and new recruits as we should.

  • Albert

    Good for the Bishop of Derby. This is a no brainer morally – especially when you consider the numbers coming into the country anyway and the risk such translators are facing. But it is also a no brainer practically – if we don’t look after our translators we won’t get the best translators. If we can’t get the best translators then what are the consequences for our forces and objectives?

    I marvel at this Government at times.

  • Martin

    “It seems to me that interpreters are like priests; they are mediators and help connect cultures and communities,”

    One has to wonder at the heretical comments spoken by a bishop of the Reformed CoE! There is no Christian office of priest in the New Testament and there is no indication that any of the offices can be described in this way. there is no office of mediator in the Christian Church but one:

    For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, (I Timothy 2:5 [ESV])

    That said, if you use someone to do your work and it puts them in danger you have a moral obligation toward them.

    • Sybaseguru

      Blessed are the peacemakers…(Matt 5) comes to mind. +Alastair got it right with “they are mediators and help connect cultures and communities”. As regards the word “priest” you might be surprised it you looked its origins up.

      • Anton

        He’s right, although he’s off topic.

        • As well as being off topic, he’s wrong.

          • Anton

            The New Testament is explicit that all Christians are priests by default (Rev 1:6, 1 Peter 2:9), with Jesus as High Priest (Hebrews 4:14), and we need no further mediator (1 Tim 2:5).

          • Yes, Anton. Another time. There’s plenty of scripture to clarify those passages and demonstrate scriptural support for a ministerial priesthood with special roles.

          • Anton

            Those passages do not need clarification. They are perfectly comprehensible as they stand. I question the motivation of any church system that seeks to obscure them.

          • Except you have a narrow understanding of the texts you cite and also a closed mind to understanding their proper meaning as evidenced by your questioning of the motives of the Church.

            Hebrews 7:22-25 or 1 Timothy 2:5 are not saying that Christians cannot act as mediators or intercessors in any sense. Paul says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions” (1 Tim. 2:1-2). This text urges Christians to act as mediators or intercessors. Christians can intercede because they are in Christ, the one true mediator/intercessor. They act as members of his body.
            And there is ample scriptural support for a distinct, ordained ministerial priesthood as opposed to the universal priesthood of believers.

          • Anton

            “you have… a closed mind to understanding their proper meaning as evidenced by your questioning of the motives of the Church.”

            Not “the Church”, Jack. Your church. I am in one of the many congregations of believers in Jesus Christ that takes a different view.

            “you have a narrow understanding of the texts”

            On this occasion I didn’t say that 1 Tim 2:5 forced prayer through Christ alone. I agree that we need not revisit prayers to saints just now. I am saying that we do not need a further mediator in view of that scripture. And Rev 1:6 and 1 Peter 2:9 are explicit that all Christians are priests by default. If you want to say that there are ordained priests and unordained priests, why then does your church system state in its ceremony of ordination that the ordinand is “ordained as a priest” with the unambiguous unscriptural implication that he was not one beforehand?

            Are you a priest, Jack?

          • Because the ministerial priesthood is distinct from the universal priesthood – just as it was for the Jews. Paul refers specifically to his ministry as an apostle. He refers to his ministry as a “priestly service”: “Because of the grace given me by God to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in the priestly service of the gospel of God” (Rom. 15:15-16).

            1 Peter 2:5-9 is a reference to Exodus 19:6: “and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.” This text indicates a universal priesthood in the Old Covenant. In that same chapter, verse 22, “And also let the priests who come near to the Lord consecrate themselves.” There was a universal priesthood in existence in the Old Covenant and Jesus introduced a distinct ministerial priesthood for the New Covenant.

            As a Catholic, Jack is a member of Christ’s Body and therefore part of God’s Holy Nation and a member of the universal priesthood.

          • Anton

            You are quick to dismiss the Mosaic covenant when it suits and quick to quote its continuing relevance when it suits!

            I am glad you agree that, on a Yes/No basis, you are a priest. I affirm that of you, and of me.

          • Jack has not indicated the Mosaic Covenant remains relevant at all. However, the sacramental priesthood continues under the New Covenant.

            What is a “priest”?
            The ordained ministers of the New Covenant are called apostles (Eph. 4:11), elders (Gas. 5:14), bishops (1 Tim. 3:1), and deacons (1 Tim. 3:8). They are not referred to directly with the typical Greek word for “priest,” which is “hiereus”. The English word priest comes from the Greek word “presbuteros”, or “elder.” It does not originate from “hiereus”. So there is etymological reason to say that the elder in the Christian Church was considered to be a “priest”. And the function of the apostle, bishop, and elder is clearly revealed to be of a priestly nature as the standard noun for priest – hiereus – is not used for New Testament ministers, yet the verb form of hiereus is.

          • Anton

            If the church is to be true to its founder and those who lived next to him then it has to use words in the same way that the New Testament does. Another example of antiscriptural mutation of meaning is that there were formerly many episkopoi per congregation (Acts 20:28) whereas today many congregations are overseen by one episkopos.

            Priesthood is about mediation. We Christians mediate between God and the world and are his priests, as the NT states. We need only our High Priest Jesus Christ to mediate between us and God, because He is both man and God. Any insistence that Christians need human mediators such as an ordained priesthood is a wrongheaded power grab.

          • Sybaseguru

            How many “church of God” are there? (Acts20:28) – by my reckoning only one – just lots of ways of expressing it. So many episkopoi, one church. QED.

          • The Apostles and their successors made a power grab?

          • Martin


            No, the church in Rome made the power grab.

          • When did she do this?

          • Martin


            She? When the claim was made that Rome was the pre-eminent congregation, when the bishop of Rome claimed supremacy.

          • So when did the Church accept the Bishop of Rome, Peter’s successor, had a universal authority invested by Christ?

          • Martin


            The Church has never accepted Rome’s claims. But then Rome isn’t part of the Church any longer. When was Peter bishop of Rome?

          • The early Church appears to have accepted the primacy of the Bishop of Rome in disputed theological questions and also Apostolic succession. Just when did the Bishop of Rome make this “power grab” and where’s your evidence the Church in the first couple of centuries disputed the authority of Peter’s successor?

          • Martin


            Where is there evidence in the first couple of centuries that the bishops of Rome were Peter’s successors? And, of course, it was practice to appoint multiple bishops in each congregation, so Peter would have only been one of many if he had been bishop in Rome.

            This is why I left you in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you— if anyone is above reproach, the husband of one wife, and his children are believers and not open to the charge of debauchery or insubordination. For an overseer, as God’s steward, must be above reproach. He must not be arrogant or quick-tempered or a drunkard or violent or greedy for gain, but hospitable, a lover of good, self-controlled, upright, holy, and disciplined. He must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it.

            (Titus 1:5-9 [ESV]

          • dannybhoy

            “And there is ample scriptural support for a distinct, ordained
            ministerial priesthood as opposed to the universal priesthood of

          • Another time, another thread, Anton.

          • Martin


            Believers are to be mediators between God and men in that passage. You have failed to prove your point from Scripture.

          • Martin


            No there isn’t. The sacrifices are finished, any believer can administer the remembrance of the Lord’s Supper, given the limitations of 1 Tim 2:12.

          • Well, yes there is – another time and another thread.

          • Martin


            This thread, for the statement was made in the first sentence above. The heresy was clear, just as the heresy of the Mass is clear. There is no need for some human mind to ‘clarify’ what God has already made clear.

          • And your human mind is fully capable on its own of understanding scripture, is it?

          • Martin


            Why do you think the Holy Spirit was sent? All those who are born again are filled with the Holy Spirit and have the ability to understand Scripture.

          • Hmmm …. then either a good number are deluded or confused or the Holy Spirit tells different people different things.

          • Martin


            Well it is clear that the church of Rome lost contact with the Holy Spirit a good few hundred years ago.

          • carl jacobs

            No, he’s right.

            Two goals in three matches, Jack. That’s not going to get it done.

          • No, he’s wrong.
            54 points and counting, Carl.

      • Martin


        I know what the origins of the word priest are and I know what it’s usage is. The offices of the Church are elder/overseer and deacon. The first being the spiritual leader with responsibility for bringing the word of God to the people, the latter being responsible for other practical matters. Priest, on the other hand, is a official who officiates at sacrifices. The sacrifices being ended with that one finished sacrifice, there is no office of priest. Indeed to imply there is heresy.

        And, of course there is one great mediator between God and Man, the Man Christ Jesus. But interpreters aren’t mediators, they don’t stand between those at odds.

  • Dreadnaught
  • preacher

    I add my voice to the rest of the postings. The stakes for these men are incredibly high. How can the British government stand the public shame of leaving them to torture & death ? There is no justification for it. Any more than the Gurkha’s who without a public outcry thanks to Joanna Lumley’s intervention would have been abandoned in a similar fashion.
    It should not be necessary for such action as public outcry before these men are properly treated.
    Shame on you in Government & the Civil Service who allow this to happen & then attempt to cover your tracks with red tape & paper !.

  • chiefofsinners

    Time to leave the EU. Then we’d have room for half a million asylum seekers a year.
    Or, if we must put up with massive EU immigration, why can’t asylum seekers and migrants fill the places vacated in Romania and Hungary?

    • Inspector General

      Not sure you understand, Chief. it’s not so much where they are trying to get of, but more as to where they want to be. Give them Romania and Hungary and they’ll spit on the ground before you. Besides, they might have to do some work in those countries…

      • chiefofsinners

        The idea is that it would save us all the hand-wringing over refugees and such. Say to the Romanians: “You’ve obviously lost a few million workers recently, as they’re all in England. You must have a spare bedroom or two and a bit of a skills shortage. How about taking in some get-up-and-go types from Syria who have recently arrived by boat?”. They’d be glad of a few translators too, with all those foreigners around. Problem solved.
        Anyone who prefers Syria or Iraq to Romania can head home.

        • Inspector General

          Can’t see it working. These people making the journey aren’t thick. There are only a few acceptable destinations for them, and the UK is high up on that list. Romania isn’t on said list at all.

          They only way to stop the flow is to put all illegals into internment camps until they are willing to divulge their country of origin so they can be repatriated PDQ. Those who won’t can stay in the camps indefinitely…

          • chiefofsinners

            Oh well. At least Banksy is doing his bit to put them off with Dismaland. (Although I hear it’s a paradise compared with the rest of Weston Super Mare.)

          • Inspector General

            Rather thought you’d ask where the internment camps would be. Outer Hebrides, says the Inspector.

          • Pubcrawler


          • michaelkx

            my idea exactly sir, there are one or two nice little island for them to go to, and those who real need to stay IE fleeing persecution, will be glad to be so far away out of the hands of there persecutors, both those in there home land and those who have slip in to this green and pleasant land vie the tunnel.

          • chiefofsinners

            And then give the Scots another vote on independence?
            This policy is coming along nicely…

          • CliveM

            Or Western Super Mud as it is known locally.

          • chiefofsinners

            Ah yes- a town to which we are for ever in debt for the gift of the ‘noble’ Lord Archer of Weston-Super-Perjury.

        • It’s a sensible idea, but less likely to work in practice. The Inspector’s idea is more workable.

  • Inspector General

    Yes, by all means, have them over. We can’t abandon the fellows to the Taliban. And their families too, bring them along.

    Immigration has been soured in the last few decades thanks to the frankly appalling types let in. Damn poor show, what! But those who have helped us, let them enjoy the reward of the risk they took in doing so…

    One proviso though. They agree to go on the army reserve, in case we have to revisit that accursed country and need their services again. Not too much to ask, sure you’ll agree.

    God Save the Queen!

  • Pubcrawler

    Regardless of the clear moral obligation to these people, you’d think reliable interpreters with a proven loyalty to Britain would be at a premium right now, given what’s hammering at the gates in Calais.

  • HedgehogFive

    I have heard that the Arabs say:

    “It is better to be an enemy rather than a friend of the British. If your are their enemy, they will buy you, and if you are their friend, they will sell you.”

    • dannybhoy

      “Perfidious Albion” was another derogatory term..!

    • Ivan M

      Gold, being the Cavalry of St George.