‘Relief' for campaigner after meeting family she helped flee Afghanistan
A councillor helping interpreters flee Afghanistan has spoken of her “relief” at being able to meet one of the families in the UK.
Carolyn Webster, from Bridgend in south Wales, said she “fell into it by accident” after sending a tweet supporting the relocation of British Army interpreters to the UK.
This prompted a number of people to get in touch with the 47-year-old, asking for help with their Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) appeals as well as assistance getting on to a plane once they had been successful.
Sayed, a father aged in his early 30s who did not want his surname used, is one of the people Ms Webster helped bring to the UK.
Ms Webster was able to meet his family on Saturday and hold his baby daughter – a moment she described as “wonderful”.
She told the PA news agency: “It was a relief, actually. You spend so long on WhatsApp to people, whether they’re in the UK or in Afghanistan.
“But when you finally get to meet them it’s wonderful because they share so much of their life with you.
“It’s important for all of the evacuees to know that people support them.”
Sayed worked as an interpreter for the British Army for three years until he was injured by an improvised explosive device – an event which left him with injuries and hearing loss which still affect him today.
After the Taliban takeover, he was advised by the British Embassy to go to Kabul with his family, where they had to hide for days.
Eventually, he received a phone call instructing him to meet British soldiers who were able to get him over the barbed wire and on to a flight as crowds gathered round the airport.
Sayed told PA: “I am very much thankful to Carolyn and those who have helped us in all steps and they will always be in our hearts.
“We are safe and very happy now and we are welcomed warmly.”
Operation Pitting – in which 1,000 troops, diplomats and other officials were dispatched to Afghanistan to rescue UK nationals and Afghan allies after the seizure of the country’s capital by the Taliban – saw more than 15,000 people airlifted to safety in just over a fortnight.
Ms Webster said she and a small group of volunteers are working with a number of military interpreters and their families who were called forward for evacuation flights but could not make it through Taliban checkpoints.
She said no UK Government department had offered them any communication or guidance since August.
“We have a moral duty to assist the Afghan interpreters who walked the same streets as our soldiers,” said Ms Webster.
“They saved our soldiers’ lives. They were guiding and protecting our soldiers and we have a moral duty to be able to support those interpreters to come here.
“They are being hunted. I’ve had probably about 20 more people approach me today saying that their houses are being searched, their families are being assaulted because of their work with our country.”
Ms Webster has successfully appealed on behalf of a number of Afghans who were initially turned down for the Arap scheme and said many more have contacted her saying they are being targeted due to their work with the UK.
“We are supporting a large number of people who were called forward to the airport,” she said.
“They were called forward, they tried to get in, but were beaten back by the Taliban, on the checkpoints, or they physically couldn’t get past the crowds at the other gate.
“We will call back and the Government hasn’t communicated with them since.
“I’m having daily conversations with people (asking) ‘any news, ma’am? Any news ma’am?’
“We want to engage with the Foreign, Commonwealth (and Development) Office, to be able to say this is what’s happening with these guys.
“To (Foreign Secretary) Liz Truss and her department… reach out to us and speak with us so we can get the information that we need.”
A Ministry of Defence spokesperson said: “During Operation Pitting, we worked tirelessly to safely evacuate as many people out of Afghanistan as possible, airlifting more than 15,000 people from Kabul including thousands of Arap applicants and their dependents.
“We will continue to do all we can to support those who have supported us, and our commitment to those who are eligible for relocation is not time-limited and will endure.
“The Arap scheme remains open to applications and we will continue to support those who are eligible.”