More than 2,000 Afghan interpreters who worked with British troops have finally won visas

More than 2,000 Afghan interpreters and others who worked shoulder to shoulder with British troops have finally won visas after Home Office orders ‘immediate’ rubber-stamp

Afghans who risked their lives for Britain have finally won UK visas, the Mail can reveal.

More than 2,000 loyal interpreters and others who worked shoulder to shoulder with UK troops have been in limbo for more than a year, stuck in hotels in Pakistan and elsewhere.

But yesterday the Home Office ordered an ‘immediate’ rubber-stamping of visas to the group which includes 700 children.

It is a landmark triumph for the Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave crusade and for campaigners and lawyers.

The agony for some will not end immediately however because the Home Office was last night unable to say how quickly the group will actually be brought here.

Pictured: Afghan interpreter Abdul seated on the far left  

The 2,000 Afghans, who faced retribution from the Taliban, were all granted the right to sanctuary in the UK in gratitude for their service.

‘I just hope I can find a house’

Abdul has been waiting since February in a hotel room in Iran with his 28-year-old wife and three children.

Yesterday the former frontline interpreter, pictured above far left, was told they will be issued with UK visas this month.

But confusion remains about what accommodation has being found for them. The 34-year-old said: ‘It is a tremendous step forward and I thank everyone involved but it is impossible for me to find accommodation from here so I hope there is a house or a hotel that is available.

‘I have been running and hiding too long. I have done everything asked of me by Britain but I have been facing the risk of being deported to Afghanistan where I will be killed because I worked loyally with UK soldiers.’

He worked for British forces for three years and was praised for his bravery under fire.

It is nearly two years since the brutal Taliban regime’s lightning takeover of Kabul. Anyone who had worked for the ‘infidel’ British became a target and many have been murdered or maimed. The skilled translators whose risky work saved many British lives were offered shelter in the UK with their families.

The 2,000 who escaped Afghanistan to nearby countries including Pakistan and Iran were told they would receive visas to fly on to Britain.

But instead they have been stuck for months, waiting for the Home Office to issue the paperwork. They became ensnared in a nightmare Catch-22 in which they were told they could come to Britain but could get a visa only if they could arrange housing – which is illegal without a visa.

Today the Mail can reveal an end appears in sight because the Home Office softened its position in the face of a legal challenge brought by some of the translators. It is understood that Home Secretary Suella Braverman has ordered officials to ‘immediately’ process visas for the group.

Campaigners fear they might still be denied travel until ‘settled accommodation’ can be found for them. Government sources yesterday ruled out the group being housed in hotels here. Yet the Mail revealed last week that there were 5,000 ‘spare’ hotel rooms, paid for by taxpayers, being kept empty for Channel migrants.

Solicitors such as the firm Leigh Day, and campaigners at the Sulha Alliance, which helps ex-military translators, helped bring about yesterday’s U-turn.

Lawyers for three former interpreters with children – currently in hotels in Pakistan and Iran – challenged the housing policy at the High Court in a test case.

Sumara Sumaya, 31, a former teacher with the British Council, pictured standing with her arms crossed

Sumara Sumaya, 31, a former teacher with the British Council, pictured standing with her arms crossed

The Home Office had until this week to state its case. It is understood the Government’s legal advice suggested it would lose. Yesterday it suddenly announced that ‘we are issuing new visas’.

But it added: ‘However, it is vital those arriving have somewhere suitable to stay once they are in the UK, so they can put down roots immediately.’

Sumara Sumaya, 31, a former teacher with the British Council, was a Taliban target for teaching the ‘language of the infidel and English values’ to Afghan girls. 

Yesterday she was excited by the news she might soon be given a visa. Her story was told by the Mail’s Betrayal of the Brave campaign, which helped her to escape last year into Pakistan with her daughter, now four, and husband. 

She was pregnant and has spent nine months waiting to be relocated to the UK. She said: ‘This is momentous news. Our lives have been uncertain for too long.’

A Whitehall source said the new arrivals would not be housed in hotels but in ‘settled accommodation’. Given the pressures on housing, it is not clear how long the Afghans may have to wait. Among those who have waited almost a year for clearance is David Cameron’s former translator, Shaffy.

The 37-year-old said: ‘This is the news we have been waiting for ever since crossing the border. It is wonderful.’

Dr Sara de Jong of the Sulha Alliance welcomed the Government’s decision but added: ‘The Government’s claim that UK hotels are unsuitable for long-term accommodation is never a valid excuse for keeping Afghan interpreters and their children in entirely unsuitable conditions in hotels in Pakistan and Iran with their lives on hold.

‘To expect of our former Afghan colleagues to find their own accommodation in the UK, a country they have never visited, is almost impossible.’

Former interpreter Musa, 36, who has been in an Islamabad hotel with his wife and child for more than a year, said: ‘We must now be allowed to move quickly to the UK because our lives have been on hold too long.’

The Home Office said: ‘The UK has made an ambitious and generous commitment to help at-risk people in Afghanistan and, so far, we have brought around 24,600 people to safety. We continue to honour our commitments to bring eligible Afghans to the UK.’