Archive for October, 2007

Iraqi Employees: the next letter

October 11, 2007

Our Government is still proposing to abandon people to the death squads for having worked for the troops it sent, in our name, to Iraq.  

The ‘twelve months’ stipulation is utterly unacceptable.  In the Miliband statement, the Government  committed itself to doing nothing to shelter people at risk from death squads for having worked for British soldiers or diplomats, unless they can prove that they have worked for the British for a continuous period of twelve months.

There are a lot of local employees who fled their jobs before 12 months precisely because they had been targeted, or who did a 6-month tour for one British battalion and were then told to go and work for the Americans, or who did 12 months or more with interruptions, or who weren’t given proper documentation by the Army. Mark Brockway (former Sergeant-Major, TA Royal Engineers) said so, several times, at the meeting on October 9th; so did Andrew Alderson (Major, Yeomanry); so do the employees, and serving soldiers, who are in touch with them, or with me, by email. 

This is indescribably shabby. It has to be changed.

The first letters to MPs worked. Telephoning the offices of  MPs, I was frequently told ‘They’ve written to the Home Office about it- they got all these letters from constituents.’ So without the letters that you wrote, we wouldn’t have had Brown’s partial climbdown, which may at least save the lives of those hundreds of Iraqis who can prove that they worked for twelve months for us.  Write another letter- or write your first- and we can save some more lives.

As before, bullet points for a letter are below. So is a form letter, but don’t send it unchanged: adapt it a lot. It’s just there to help people over writer’s block. Again, be courteous when writing to your MP and put your full address including the postcode, to indicate that you are a constituent. If you don’t know who your MP is, you can find out here. You should address letters to: (MP’s Name), The House of Commons, Westminster, London. SW1A 0AA. When you get a reply, let me know (in comments, or to danhardie.blog@gmail.com ) so that we can see which MPs we can work with, and which need persuading.

Bullet points:

  • David Miliband’s Statement on ‘Iraq: Locally Recruited Civilians’ of 9th October stated that Britain will help to resettle- in the wider Middle East, or in the United Kingdom- Iraqis who can prove that they have worked for this country’s soldiers or diplomats for a continuous period of twelve months.
  • Hundreds of Iraqis have been targeted for assassination for having worked for this country. Some have worked for a period of twelve months exclusively for the British and can prove this. Some have not but have been pinpointed for murder anyway. We have a responsibility to save these people from being murdered for the ‘crime’ of working for the British.
  • There are a lot of local employees who fled their jobs before 12 months precisely because they had been targeted, or who did a 6-month tour for one British battalion and were then told to go and work for the Americans, or who did 12 months or more with interruptions, or who the Army didn’t give proper documentation too.
  • Iraqi staff members must be given shelter not because of their provable length of service but according to whether they have been identified for murder by local death squads. This can be investigated on the spot by Army officers and referred rapidly to London: the process needs to start now.
  • Mr Miliband’s statement did not mention the families of Iraqi employees. As Iraqi militias also murder the families of their ‘enemies’, we must resettle our employees’ families as well. Mark Brockway, an ex-soldier who hired many Iraqis, estimates that we are talking about a maximum of 700 Iraqis to resettle: this country admits 190,000 immigrants net every year.
  • Iraqis have already been targeted for murder for having worked for this country. We will be shamed if we allow more to be killed for the same reason. Our soldiers, who are angry at this betrayal, and our diplomats, will be placed at risk if they gain a reputation for abandoning their local helpers.

Form letter:

(MP’s Name)

The House Of Commons

Westminster

London. SW1A 0AA.

                                                                                                   Your full name and address.

Dear (MP’s Name)

As you will have read in the Times, Iraqis who have worked for British soldiers or diplomats are being targeted for murder by local militia. An unknown number have already been killed and more have been forced into hiding.

On October 9th, David Miliband’s statement on ‘Locally Recruited Civilians’ in Iraq said that Britain would offer assistance with resettlement for Iraqis who had worked with British forces, but only if they could prove that they had worked for us for 12 months or more. This is effectively leaving hundreds of Iraqis, who have risked their lives for this country’s forces, to the mercy of the death squads. 

Mark Brockway, a former soldier who employed many Iraqis, told Channel Four News on 9th October that local staff often worked for six months for British units, during which time they were frequently identified as ‘enemies’ by the local militias. I believe that the Government has a direct responsibility for the safety of these people.

I feel that it is morally unacceptable that this country is following such a policy. I also believe it will endanger our soldiers and diplomats in Iraq and Afghanistan. Can I please ask you to write to the Foreign Office, and also to the Home Office which has charge of asylum policy, to ask why the Government is prepared to ignore the plight of hundreds of people who were placed at risk serving this country’s soldiers.

Yours sincerely

David Miliband’s statement on Iraqi Employees

October 9, 2007

 Below is David Miliband’s statement, released on Tuesday October 9th, setting out Government policy on ‘Locally Recruited Civilians’ in Iraq.  Since this post is currently number four on Google for ‘David Miliband Iraq’, let’s make something plain: Mr Miliband’s statement is disgracefully inadequate.

It’s clearly a product of   horse-trading between five different Ministries (FCO, Home Office, MoD, DfID and the Treasury) all unwilling to spend any money on a bunch of Arabs and mostly unaware or unconcerned that a lack of speedy Government action will kill more Iraqi employees (and put British soldiers at further risk).  

In ascending order of shabbiness, some of the problems with this document are:

i)                   There is no mention of resettlement assistance for employees’ families, although we know that Iraqi militias kill the families of their ‘enemies: I think that the Government may attempt to abandon family members. Ladies and gentlemen of the FCO, do you really think you won’t get awful media coverage if you tell Ali, who worked with our forces, that he can come to the UK away from the death squads, but his wife and daughter must stay in Basra? We both know what the front page of the Times will be. 

ii) The resettlement packages- 6 months’ pay to go away from Iraq and set up somewhere else in the Middle East- are grotesquely mean. And more importantly, the staff must not be improperly pressured to go to a Middle Eastern country if they are not going to be able to live safely there. If they have family or other contacts in a country without a jihadist sub-culture, they may well choose resettlement within the Arab world, though it will have to be properly funded. But force people to stay in Syria and Jordan if they have reason to believe they are being hunted there, and you will have- again- blood on your hands, and you will have- again- furious media coverage.

 iii)  Worst of all is the stipulation that we will only be giving assistance- not just resettlement in the UK, but the pitifully small grants to go elsewhere in the Middle East- to those who can prove that they have worked for UK forces for 12 months continuously. This is the most disgraceful piece of bureaucratic blindness. Do you not understand that Iraq is a war zone? Have you not spoken to the soldiers and heard that some people worked over 12 months for us but were not targeted by death squads but that people who worked for shorter periods have been targeted? Do you not understand that the Army has not been keeping proper records of its Iraqi staff? Do you not know that the British Army sends units out on 6-month roulement tours of Iraq and that Iraqi staff worked for the duration of those tours and then were told to go and work for the Americans? Do you not realise that we are not asking for ‘rewards’ for long service but for sanctuary for people hunted by death squads?  

You’re going to be forced to do the right thing eventually- why not do it now, before more lives are lost? Or- since in your moral autism this appears to be the only argument that you can listen to- before you get more bad press?

Written Ministerial Statement

09 October 2007 IRAQ: ASSISTANCE TO LOCALLY EMPLOYED STAFF  

The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs (Mr. David Miliband):

On 8 August the Prime Minister announced a review of the Government’s assistance to our Locally Engaged staff in Iraq.  The Defence Secretary, Home Secretary, Secretary of State for International Development, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and I have now agreed on the elements of a scheme.

Locally engaged Iraqi staff working for our armed forces and civilian missions in Iraq have made an invaluable contribution, in uniquely difficult circumstances, to the UK’s efforts to support security, stability and development in the new Iraq.   We are hugely grateful to them for their contribution, which continues to be essential to the delivery of our mission in Iraq. 

 In recognition of that,  we have decided to offer those staff, on an ex gratia basis, assistance which goes above and beyond the confines of what is lawfully or contractually required.  Assistance will be based on objective criteria, taking into account determinable and relevant factors.  It is offered in recognition of the service by these courageous Iraqis in direct support of HMG’s efforts to help the Iraqi Government and people build a peaceful, stable and prosperous Iraq.  

The assistance announced by the Prime Minister yesterday will allow Iraqi staff, including but not limited to interpreters, currently working[1] for HMG in Iraq, who have attained 12 months’ or more continuous service, to apply for a one-off package of financial assistance of between 6 and 12 months’ salary, depending on length of service, to meet the costs of relocation for themselves and their dependants in Iraq or the region, if they are made redundant or have to resign from their job because of what we judge to be exceptional circumstances.  Alternatively, these staff will be able to apply for exceptional leave to enter the UK, or to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement in the UK through the UK’s Gateway refugee resettlement programme, provided that they meet the criteria for the programme, including that they satisfy UNHCR that they meet the criteria of the 1951 Convention and need resettlement.

In addition, interpreters/translators and other Iraqi staff serving in similarly skilled or professional roles necessitating the regular use of written or spoken English, who formerly worked for HMG in Iraq, will be able to apply for assistance for themselves and their dependants provided that they satisfactorily completed a minimum of 12 months’ service, and they were in our employ on or after 1 January 2005.   Former staff meeting those criteria will be able to apply for a one-off package of financial assistance similar to that available for serving staff, or to avail themselves of the opportunity for resettlement in the UK through the Gateway programme as set out above.

This assistance will principally apply to Iraqi nationals who meet the eligibility criteria set out above, and who work, or have worked, in Iraq in the following capacities:

         as direct employees of the UK Armed Forces or the Ministry of Defence;

         on Letters of Appointment from the British Embassy in Baghdad or the British Embassy Offices in Basra and the Kurdistan Region;

         as direct employees of DFID and the British Council.

In addition, we are considering what assistance may be provided to a limited number of contracted staff meeting the eligibility criteria who have worked in particularly close association with us as an integral part of HMG programmes, projects and operations in Iraq.    

We will announce further details, including on how eligible staff may apply, before the end of the month.  



Iraqi employees: the numbers game

October 8, 2007

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.

Meeting now in Portcullis House

October 8, 2007

And another announcement: the meeting on Iraqi Employees will take place on the same day (Tuesday 9th October) at the same time (7-9pm) with the same speakers in a changed venue very close to the original one: the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House (MPs’ own office block, opposite Parliament). The long-suffering and highly efficient Mette Kahlin will be standing outside the door of the old venue (Committee Room 14 in Parliament) pointing the way to the new venue, which is the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House. How do you get there? Walk to Parliament and it’s the very ugly building at the corner of Bridge Street and Victoria Embankment, facing Big Ben (or St. Stephen’s Tower, if you really must). If you get lost, which you won’t, ask one of the police officers, who are actually very helpful, or just look round for the biggest eyesore. It is unmissably hideous.

Poor Mette had the job, a couple of hours ago, of telling me that – despite the fact that she booked the room back in the first week of September, despite the fact that not double-booking rooms is a task open to the simplest person capable of using something like Outlook, despite the fact that a struggling provincial hotel could manage to avoid doing something like this- a Cabinet Minister claimed that she had previously booked the room and so we were bounced out. Oh, imagine my joy. It quite took the pleasure out of learning that I was a qualified physician.

Salt in the wound: the Cabinet Minister in question is Hazel Blears. Silver lining: we can get TV crews in to film in the Attlee Suite, which we couldn’t in Committee Room 14.  That’s Committee Room 14, our old venue. And of course our new venue is the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House.

Iraqi Employees: Maintain the pressure

October 7, 2007

Gordon Brown may apparently be making a statement on Iraq to the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon, sometime after 2pm. He may or may not mention Britain’s Iraqi employees and the need of some of them for asylum. The Times article of Saturday promises nothing but gave the Government a big, positive headline: classic spin. I have always said, when writing to Jacqui Smith and other Ministers, that to pre-announce asylum for Iraqi employees before they’d actually been taken to safety would increase the risks to them and to the British soldiers who would have to evacuate them. I hope desperately that this won’t happen. I also hope that we will see a genuine promise of resettlement for all who are identified as being seriously at risk for having worked for the British in Iraq.

Brown may or may not promise this on Monday afternoon: frankly they have been so grudging that I doubt it.  The Government are going to have to be pushed to do the right thing, so the meeting on Tuesday, October 9th is now more important than ever: we can win if we keep pushing.  It’s at Parliament, Committee Room 14, St Stephen’s entrance, from 7-9pm. Invite your MP and come yourself.

I am not a Doctor

October 7, 2007

I am not a Doctor, of Medicine or anything else.  Nor have I ever claimed to be a Doctor. I have indeed completed a medical training course of two weeks’ duration.  I do, in fact, research a particular commodities industry, and the journalist who just called me a Doctor in the pages of a national newspaper knows this because we first met when I brought his attention to a story about the price of building materials and the cost of the London Olympics. If he’d forgotten that, he needed to simply check with me as to my profession, or to the extent of my medical training, and he didn’t.

This is simply so that we don’t get Press Officers saying that I’m some nutter who has awarded himself a medical degree. No I’m not, and no I haven’t. I also note that I am entirely in agreement with Ministry of Defence policy, that serving soldiers should not speak to the Press without permission, and should not make political statements under any circumstances. Reservists- who include a number of MPs-  may do both so long as they do so as citizens, without identifying themselves as soldiers or doing so whilst they are in uniform, or revealing sensitive or classified military information.

How to Invite your MP

October 1, 2007

Another excuse dies the death: the Americans, or at any rate their Congress, are doing what the British Government lacks the moral courage to do. (Hat tips to these two gentlemen.)

There will be a meeting at Parliament on Tuesday October 9th, to call for the British Government to recognise its responsibilities and give shelter to the Iraqis endangered by their work for this country’s troops and diplomats. You can invite your MP.  And if you care about these people, you should. 

The more MPs we get in the meeting, the better. They are not going to listen to Mark Brockway, who is getting desperate emails from the Iraqis he hired, and walk away indifferent; they are not going to listen to Richard Beeston of the Times and decide that they can ignore this. We are going to make it impossible for the Home Office to carry on with its delaying tactics.

This is how to invite your MP:

1) Find your MP: type your postcode into ‘They work for you’.

2) Copy-and-paste or better still, adapt this form invitation below (and make any changes you want, but we have to keep these letters courteous).  Also; make sure that your address and postcode are on the letters

3) You can then either email it to your MP (email addresses for MPs take the form surnameinitial@parliament.uk– thus Gordon Brown is  BROWNG@parliament.uk ) or you can post it to ‘MP’s name,  The House of Commons, Westminster, London, SW1A 0AA.’ If you have the time, printed letters are better than emails: and it’s not that hard to write a letter, is it? If you get a bounceback from an MP’s email address, get in touch with me  (danhardie.blog@gmail.com ) as I have a bunch of alternative contact details now, or -better still- write the print letter and post it.  Please make sure that your address and postcode are clearly written on either emails or print letters, so that the MP realises they are dealing with one of their own constituents.

4) If you are in London on the evening of Tuesday 9th October, please come along to the meeting in person. Go to St Stephen’s entrance, facing College Green (the police tend to be helpful here) and ask for admission. There will be at least one campaigning blogger at the entrance, ready to point you in the right direction: remember the meeting starts at 7pm.

Thank you- and, hopefully, see you there.

FORM INVITATION:

Iraqi Employees of British Forces – Parliamentary Speaker Meeting, Tuesday October 9th

Dear NAME

As your constituent, I am writing on behalf of ‘We can’t turn them away’, an online campaign for resettlement for those Iraqis threatened by death squads for their work with British forces. We would like to invite you to a meeting in Committee Room 14 of the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday October 9th from 7 to 9pm .

As you may well have seen in The Times, Iraqi citizens who have worked as interpreters for British forces are being tortured and murdered by death squads for having worked with the occupying forces.

Speakers will include:

Mark Brockway (a former Warrant Officer in the Territorial Royal Engineers, who ran the

British Army’s Quick Impact Reconstruction Projects in 2003,  when he hired a great many

Iraqi staff in 2003. Mark has been in close contact with them since and knows of at least

one who has been recently murdered;

Richard Beeston, senior Foreign Correspondent for ‘The Times’ newspaper.

Ed Vaizey MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.

Lynne Featherstone MP, Liberal Democrat spokesperson for International Development.

A senior Labour MP.

A number of reporters from television, the national press and BBC Radio will attend the meeting.

This is a cross-party, moral issue, on which both opponents and supporters of the Iraq war can agree. Whilst the Government has said that it is reviewing the policy, no change has yet been made, and further delay is likely to leave Iraqi employees at the mercy of the local death squads. Attendance at this event certainly does not imply any agreement with the aims of our campaign: you are welcome to come and ask searching questions, or to send a Researcher to represent you.

If you cannot come to the meeting, I would also ask that you write to the Home Secretary, and to the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, asking for an explanation of why policy has not changed despite the announcement of an ‘urgent review’ of the matter on August 8th this year.  

Thank you very much for your time.