HMS Queen Elizabeth: Ben Wallace speaks ahead of deployment
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Ben Wallace, who was appointed Defence Secretary in July 2019, made the announcement on social media after claims were made that the UK had denied Afghan interpreters asylum. In a three-part Twitter thread, Wallace said: “I will personally review contentious claims as Defence Secretary.”
“As operations in Afghanistan draw to a close”, he claimed, “our work to bring locally-employed civilians in Afghanistan to the UK to keep them safe continues.”
The 51-year-old added the UK will accept “contractors”, “those who resigned”, “people in third countries”, and “staff dismissed for minor offences” onto the scheme.
Wallace, who served in the Scots Guards, also tweeted: “Decisions are based on the threat to the civilians’ life, their eligibility and the security of UK citizens.
“We have streamlined checks to help as many civilians as possible, but we must continue to verify claimants’ identity.”
The Twitter thread comes after the US decided to extend visa access to Afghans seeking refuge following the gains made by the Taliban across the nation.
The American scheme will also see Afghans who worked for the US Government or military and those who worked for American contracting firms become eligible for visas.
The US State Department said the new offer “expands the opportunity to permanently resettle in the United States to many thousands of Afghans and their immediate family members who may be at risk.”
According to The Telegraph, the Tory MP, Tobias Ellwood, said: “We should absolutely do more.
“We should have been leading on this.”
Ellwood, who chairs the Commons’ Defence Select Committee, warned “nobody anticipated the speed at which the country [Afghanistan] would fall.”
The former Lieutenant Colonel added that many Afghans who helped the West in the region are “now in danger as the Taliban hunts them down”.
Admiral Lord West of Spithead also chimed in on the debate.
The Labour life peer said the UK Government should take Afghans who had worked in other roles that assisted British troops.
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He said: “We should be doing something with urgency.”
“There are Afghans at risk of being killed.
“We need to be faster and we need to be more open-minded [about who we offer asylum to].”
A Government spokesperson said: “Nobody’s life should be put at risk because they supported the UK Government in Afghanistan. Our Afghan relocation policy is one of the most generous in the world.”
Britain has so far accepted 2,300 Afghan interpreters and members of their immediate family.
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