The Government are saving some Iraqis threatened with death if they’ve worked for us for 12 months, and abandoning others, equally threatened with death but who’ve worked for less than 12 months. They’re playing a numbers game with people’s lives.
I spoke a few minutes ago with Mark Brockway, and he made these substantive criticisms:
1)The Numbers Game: The demand that Iraqis must have worked for the British Army or Government for 12 months is wholly arbitrary. Of the people Mark knows, around a quarter have worked for less than 12 months for the British Army but are threatened by the death squads- one or two were detected by the militias early in their service and the others started off working for the British and then were told by the Army to go and work for the Americans- there was quite a lot of this ‘passing on’ of skilled interpreters and other staff.
2) So: Principles must count for more than Numbers. What we’ve always said: the principle must be that anyone threatened with death for having worked for us must be evacuated. We are only talking a few hundred people here anyway, so the Government’s quibbling over numbers is particularly shameful.
3) Families. Gordon Brown did not mention families of threatened staff, and told Menzies Campbell that up to 250 people would probably need help. The local militias murder families of their enemies, and so the Government must make accept the principle that if they want to take their families with them, they can.
4) Resettlement in the Middle East. Some Iraqi employees might welcome resettlement in the Middle East rather than in the UK, but any resettlement package must be generous- these people risked their lives for our soldiers- and Iraqis must not be pressured to choose resetlement in the Middle East rather than the UK. One Iraqi told Mark Brockway ‘I am at risk in Iraq but even more at risk in Syria- I know less about where to hide.’
Our campaign, and the Times’s campaign, have pushed the Government this far. We can push them further. What was announced today is the thin end of the wedge, and we are going to hammer that wedge in. Tomorrow, 7-9pm, in the Attlee Suite at Portcullis House: see you there.