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Danish vets: Give Afghan interpreters asylum

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Danish vets: Give Afghan interpreters asylum
The interpreters "deserve just as much respect and gratitude for their efforts as we do, if not more," the soldiers wrote. Photo: Søren Bidstrup/Scanpix
20:29 CEST+02:00
In an open letter, Danish veterans of the country's military engagement in Afghanistan have criticized parliament for failing to grant asylum to the Afghan interpreters who risked their lives to help Danish soldiers.
The Danish government approved a so-called ‘interpreter package' in 2013 with the stated intention of helping the Afghan interpreters who put their lives on the line to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Danish troops.
 
Text within the agreement proclaims that “no interpreter or other local employee that has assisted the Danish efforts in Afghanistan will be left in the lurch in connection with the reduction of the international engagement in Afghanistan." 
 
But despite the government's promises, 42 Afghan interpreters have been denied asylum by Danish officials. 
 
In an open letter to parliament, hundreds of Danish soldiers have accused the government of not following through on its word. 
 
“We veterans and soldiers take it very literally when it is said that we won't leave anyone 'in the lurch'. Those words are binding! We don't believe in any way that the rest of the agreement's wording or the way it has been administered lives up to the preliminary message. You are, in other words, actively leaving our Afghan comrades ‘in the lurch',” the open letter reads. 
 
Much of the letter praises the work of the Afghan interpreters. 
 
“These primarily young men didn't just function as translators of the the local language but just as much as translators of the local culture. They helped unravel many entanglements and explain our goals and intentions so that they were understandable in a local culture that in many ways was as far from the Danish as imaginable,” the letter states. 
 
“We consider these young who men have sweated, cried, bled, fought and in some cases laid down their lives with us to be our comrades and our closes allies. They deserve just as much respect and gratitude for their efforts as we do, if not more. Unfortunately, we must observe that you politicians do not have an adequate understanding of how great an effort these young Afghan men exerted for the Danish combat soldiers in Afghanistan,” it continues. 
 
Since the open letter was published on Facebook late on Saturday evening, more than 200 Danish soldiers and veterans have signed on with their name, rank and unit. 
 
One of the driving forces behind the letter, Captain Mads Silberg, told DR that the Danish government has put “an unfairly high burden of proof” on the interpreters to show that their lives are in danger if they remain in Afghanistan. 
 
“We think that their efforts warrant us showing them trust and respect by believing what they say. They have earned a special status,” Silberg told DR. 
 
The open letter appears unlikely to sway politicians, however. 
 
Since 2013, an ‘Interpreter Task Force' made up of Danish officials have been in Afghanistan processing applications from interpreters and the chairman of parliament's Defence Committee said he had “full confidence” that the task force is doing its job properly. 
 
“They [the soldiers and veterans, ed] are saying that they are affected by the situation and I understand that. They can't be callous toward their comrades. But we aren't callous either. We must trust facts and the case handling that is occurring and I have full confidence in that,” Karsten Nonbo told DR. 
 
The full letter can be read here: 
 

ÅBENT BREV TIL FOLKETINGETKære politikere og medlemmer af Folketinget, det er med tunge hjerter og frustrerede sind,...

Posted by Åbent brev til Folketinget on Saturday, May 16, 2015
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