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The 102 interpreters who have assisted the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan are angry. Although they have risked their lives for the country, the Netherlands has abandoned them. The Americans, by comparison, are allowing their interpreters and translators to apply for visas to travel to the United States.
The Afghan interpreters are not actually permitted to talk to journalists but they don't care any more. With the Dutch leaving the southern province of Uruzgan soon - on 1 August - their contracts have been terminated. They feel they are being forced to return to their families. But that's part of the problem - they complain in interviews with Radio Netherlands Worldwide - they are afraid the enemy will target them – and hence possibly their loved ones too - for working with the "heathens".
The Dutch defence ministry confirms that all contracts have been "formally ended". It does not feel any responsibility since "they belong to NATO not to the Netherlands". A spokesperson said "We have told our successors, the Americans and Australians, these guys are good translators, take them over. So I think they'll land on their feet."
40below said:As far as I'm concerned, they should have handed out a Canadian passport to every terp who signed up to work with them. Without terps, the CF is nothing in Afgh, you can't do COIN and you have no HUMINT, all the army can do is shoot people.
Ottawa's promised fast-track immigration policy for Afghan translators has left many interpreters stuck in the starting-blocks and fearing for their lives.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney originally announced the program to assist Afghans who face "extraordinary personal risk" because of their support for Canada's mission in Kandahar.
Kenney said he expected "a few hundred" successful applicants to qualify by the time the mission and the program ends next year but as of the end of May only 25 of 114 applications had been approved.
One interpreter, who goes by the name of Mojo to protect his real identity, said he was rejected but doesn't understand what the government means by "extraordinary personal risk."
He said all interpreters helping the mission are considered to be the eyes of NATO and could be killed once Canada pulls out ....
The end of the Dutch military mission in Afghanistan’s Uruzgan province also means the end of four years’ service for local interpreters. They say they shared the tough experiences of the Dutch and ran major risks too.
They expected more from the departing Dutch. Most, despite any misgivings they have, will be starting work with the United States forces which are taking over from the Dutch in the southern Afghan province. But the interpreters fear their new allegiance will lead to even more hatred from their fellow Afghans. “The Americans give out visas after two years. That’s what I’m pinning my hopes on,” one of them admits.
“I can’t just go back to my village. It’s better not to show my face there. People know I work for the Westerners.”
Dutch members of parliament have been asking questions in the house about the lack of follow-up support for the interpreters. Similar questions were asked after Dutch forces withdrew from Iraq but, says Dutch Labour MP Angelien Eijsink, absolutely nothing was done. The US army, however, does have a programme to take care of local staff who have run risks or may be in present danger.
There were 102 interpreters working for the Dutch a month ago, but the group is disintegrating fast. Twelve gave up the job when they had to start working with Australian troops. Others have been given completely new jobs, but their former colleagues say they have just disappeared. On Sunday, one interpreter took a plane home. Last week, two others quit, leaving for Kandahar in a heavily armed convoy. Three more who were ‘on leave’ have failed to return.
The remaining 70 are all anxious to secure one of the remaining interpreting jobs with the Dutch following last weekend’s official handover of command in Uruzgan to the US. However, there are only 14 of these ‘Dutch posts’ to be had. The rest have no alternative other than that of joining the Americans.
The Dutch gave a barbeque for the interpreters last week and handed out certificates for the work they had done, but they had similar testimonials already.
“It’s not that there’s no work for us. We’re in great demand with the various armies here. It’s about the Netherlands not understanding our position. What it’s like for the lads who face danger when they get home. And definitely for those who were wounded while alongside Dutch troops in combat.”
.... A statement obtained by CP from the Minister's Office states that "The applicant must demonstrate that: the threat is directly related to the individual's support of the Canadian mission in Kandahar, or directly related to an immediate family member's support of the Canadian mission in Kandahar; and the threat is greater than the level of risk faced by the many others working for the Canadian government in Kandahar province in general." The sanctimony alone in that statement is stupefying.
The idea that "extraordinary risk" can be quantified -- let alone evaluated -- by an interdepartmental committee of Ottawa-based bureaucrats beggars credulity. It exposes Canada as pettifogging, mean-minded, self absorbed, callous ....
Canadian soldiers had just arrived in Kandahar province in 2006 when a local interpreter — everyone knew him simply as Max — took some shrapnel to his left eye from a Taliban rocket-propelled grenade.
The attack came during Operation Medusa, one of the bloodiest of the war. The driver sitting in front of Max was killed in the blast; the two soldiers riding with him were also injured.
Max, who cannot be identified because he continues to help Canadian troops bridge the language cap with local villagers, was evacuated to the base at Kandahar Airfield, where he underwent emergency surgery, with at least one follow-up operation.
His left eye still bears the scars of that battle.
And yet Max has twice been turned down in his efforts to immigrate to Canada under a new fast-track program for Afghans who face "extraordinary personal risk" because of their work with the mission in Kandahar.
"The first time, they said I was missing one piece of paper," Max said in an interview. The second time, they said he did not qualify.
"They denied me. I don't know why."
.... 10 months from the July pullout date, only about 50 of 250 applicants are "moving forward in the process," said Douglas Kellam, spokesman for Citizenship and Immigration Canada. The department has fielded some 280 additional inquiries from potential applicants, he added.
"Should they all pass security, criminality and health screening, they will be accompanied to Canada by some 75 eligible family members (wives and dependent children)," Kellam said in an email response to queries.
"As with all immigration programs, not everyone who applies is approved."
Capt. Annie Djiotsa, spokeswoman for Canada's Task Force Kandahar, said approximately 6,000 interpreters have worked for the Canadian Forces throughout Afghanistan since 2006.
The job is a perilous one and has a high turnover rate, Djiotsa said ....
George Wallace said:How does this bring stability to Afghanistan?
This is freaking madness. We are spending hundreds of billions of dollars in sending troops and equipment, Police advisors, Corrections Canada advisors, NGOs, OGAs, aid, etc. to Afghanistan attempting to bring stability to the Region. The very people we are helping and benefiting and are our hope to continue this work after we are gone, are these very people Jason Kenny now wants to bring to Canada. This makes absolutely no sense. ................
Ottawa may extend its fast-track immigration policy for Afghan translators who help the Canadian Armed Forces and aid workers in Kandahar if troops remain in Afghanistan beyond 2011.
Citizenship and Immigration Minister Jason Kenney said Friday it would make sense to continue the program for as long as such translators work with Canadians.
"The basic principle is any Afghan whose life is at risk because they've assisted Canadian Forces or aid workers we're going to give them fair consideration for expedited immigration to Canada," Kenney said Friday.
"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. We have applications in the queue we're reviewing right now. We'll focus on those first."
The application process has been slow and cumbersome.
There have been about 250 applications so far. Each has to be approved by a committee made up of officials from the departments of National Defence, Foreign Affairs, International Development and Immigration and Citizenship.
The committee works with the International Organization for Migration, an intergovernmental agency based in Kandahar.
"Partly it's because of the security situation. We have an interdepartmental committee that's asked to meet and review the applications and for a while some of the NGO's had pulled out of the region," Kenney said.
"We've been able to get that back together now and I think the process is speeding up. We're on track to receive between 150 and 200 by the time the program is over." ....
A company that supplies Afghan translators for Canada's mission in Kandahar may have mistakenly raised the interpreters' hopes of emigrating to Canada, according to a newly released document.
A contingent of Canadian military and civilian officials say International Management Services, or IMS, told interpreters that their immigration papers were being considered — even though not every application was.
The officials noted the finding in a report to Citizenship and Immigration Canada, which they submitted in March after spending three weeks in Kandahar reviewing applications made under a special immigration program.
The Canadian Press obtained a partially-censored copy of the report under the Access to Information Act.
The report says problems arose when an unidentified group or person contacted IMS to verify the translators' work history.
"Complications arose when (blank) contacted IMS, the prime contractor for many of the CF's interpreters and other language assistants, to confirm employment records," the report says.
"(Blank) reported that IMS, staffed in Kandahar by local nationals, informed some program applicants that they were being considered. Given that the list submitted to IMS was only of individuals that were potentially eligible, this likely raised false expectations among applicants." ....