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 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.