THE UK Government has hit back at criticism from the Commons Defence Committee over the claim that no native interpreters employed by British forces in Afghanistan have faced threats that justify their relocation to the UK, as “totally implausible”.

In a report yesterday, the government answered the committee’s earlier assertion in its publication “Lost in Translation? Afghan Interpreters and Other Locally Employed Civilians”.

That read: “Given our government’s own stark assessment of the perilous Afghan security situation, the idea that no interpreters or other former [locally-employed civilians] LECs have faced threats and intimidation warranting their relocation to the UK is totally implausible.”

However, the response said an in-theatre intimidation and investigation unit assessed whether reported intimidation could be attributed to the former LECs’ employment and if that was above the general threat level in Afghanistan.

“The levels of intimidation faced in the cases investigated so far have not been such that we have had to relocate individuals to the UK to ensure their safety,” said the government.

The committee said much had been made of the need to avoid a supposed “brain drain” as a major obstacle to a more generous intimidation scheme, which is described as “completely disingenuous”.

It added: “If the ‘brightest and the best’ have to go into hiding, their brains will hardly be available for the advancement of Afghan national development. Moreover, the ‘brain drain’ avoidance argument, if genuine, should also have precluded hundreds of Afghan LECs being relocated to the UK under the Redundancy Scheme; yet that was allowed to proceed without objection.”

The government responded that if an investigation concluded that an individual could not live “safely” anywhere in Afghanistan, they would act to relocate them to the UK regardless of their background, the role they played with British forces and their current employment.

“There is an agreed process for relocating them and their immediate family to the UK outside of Home Office immigration rules, subject to security checks,” it said.

“The levels of intimidation faced in the cases investigated so far have not been such that we have had to relocate individuals to the UK to ensure their safety.

“Our general experience of a large cross-section of former staff with whom we have maintained contact is that the overwhelming majority are well able to carry on their normal work and home life without risks to their safety arising from their former employment.

“The number of former staff relocated to the UK is a small proportion of the total number of around 7000 that we employed. We have sought to balance reward for the most deserving with the need to secure Afghanistan’s future.”

There are two initiatives – the redundancy scheme and intimidation scheme – offering assistance to former LECs and their dependents.

More than 1000 have been relocated to the UK and almost 400 have benefited from in-country training and “finance aspects”.

The committee said the redundancy scheme had been “generous and proportionate” for those LECs who had settled in the UK when armed forces were withdrawn from Afghanistan.

But that generosity contrasted “starkly with the total failure to offer similar sanctuary” to others under the intimidation scheme.

The government said it was the only nation with a specialist team “investigating each case of intimidation and providing a range of security mitigation measures”.