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The Iraqi campaign event yesterday

Posted By Sunny On 10th October, 2007 @ 11:59 pm In Events, Middle East | 1 Comment

Yesterday evening we had our event at Portcullis House in Westminister, lobbying the government to grant asylum to Iraqi employees of the British armed forces. I wrote an article about it on [1] comment is free today.

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He said he was “seething”. A sense of dismay and frustration was palpable to his audience yesterday evening. Mark Brockway, a former officer, who ran the British army’s quick impact reconstruction projects in 2003, said he personally knew of the great danger his former employees and colleagues faced in Iraq.

A slide show of pictures showed bruises from the beatings men had received from militias. He recounted horror stories of doctors and teachers who had helped the army to feed their families and help their country get back on its feet through reconstruction being pumped with bullets at night in front of their children.

The audience, he said, simply could not imagine the panic that many people in Iraq felt just knowing the militias could burst through their door at night and execute them in cold blood. They were being pointedly targeted because they had worked for us. Without them many more British soldiers would have been killed. And yet we had abandoned them.

Yesterday, the campaign to grant asylum to Iraqi employees of British forces went to [2] Westminster. I’ve written about it in more detail [3] here and it was [4] covered on Channel 4 News on Monday.

Earlier in the day, not coincidentally, David Miliband finally [5] announced a [6] change in policy.

After accepting that Iraqi employees had made “an invaluable contribution” to the UK’s efforts to “support security, stability and development in the new Iraq”, they would be given the chance to resettle in the UK or given money to settle elsewhere. But of course there was a catch.

Firstly they had to demonstrate 12 months or more of continuous service. Mark Brockway repeatedly pointed out that Iraqi operations weren’t exactly administrative heaven; people slipped through the cracks all the time. To all intents and purposes, this government is likely to turn away someone who has worked for 11 months and is on the run for their lives.

Most employee contracts aren’t even for more than six months, and even then the provisions put forward by the FCO make them eligible for asylum in Britain anyway. One is tempted to ask: does the government take all of us for fools? Well, you know the answer.

This is more than simply a failure of our moral duty. This campaign has laid bare the callous way successive governments have treated people in other countries who work for them. You may have helped save the lives of many British soldiers, but if you aren’t one, then you get nothing if people come after you. Nothing. And to think, before this we didn’t even have an official policy.

And this is the government touting “a sense of fair play” as a British trait?

To his credit, the Conservative MP Ed Vaizey admitted there was “a pattern” here that we should not be proud of. One only has to remember how the Gurkhas were [7] treated for decades.

Other speakers, including the Lib Dem MP Lynne Featherstone (who booked the event) and Labour MP Chris Bryant, also agreed the government’s announcement yesterday did not go far enough.

Mark Brockway has been trying to [8] raise awareness of this issue for years; the blogger-led campaign to highlight this situation gave him the platform to put pressure on the government to do something. But it cannot stop here because as yet there is no victory.

“The Danish government shamed us,” he said, when they [9] quietly airlifted around 200 Iraqi employees and their families and granted them full asylum. Hell, even the American government has [10] realised there is a problem.

For the British government to be unable to do the same for around 1,000 people, he added passionately, “was more than embarrassing”. Indeed. To paraphrase Ali G: “Is it coz they iz brown?”

It’s time you signed up to the British values you are so fond of extolling, prime minister.

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1 Comment To "The Iraqi campaign event yesterday"

#1 Pingback By Chicken Yoghurt » Iraqi Employees: Round 2 On 12th October, 2007 @ 2:55 pm

[…] fit and will hopefully blog on this in more detail soon (in the interim, see Dan, Davide, Robert, Sunny, Daniel, We Owe it To Them and all the other s) but need to point to […]


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URLs in this post:
[1] comment is free: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2007/10/what_happened_to_fair_play.html
[2] Westminster: http://danhardie.wordpress.com/2007/10/08/meeting-now-in-portcullis-house/
[3] here: http://commentisfree.guardian.co.uk/sunny_hundal/2007/09/keyboards_at_the_ready.html
[4] covered: http://www.channel4.com/news/articles/politics/international_politics/hope+for+iraqs+translators/894
747

[5] announced: http://www.guardian.co.uk/guardianpolitics/story/0,,2187223,00.html
[6] change: http://www.fco.gov.uk/servlet/Front?pagename=OpenMarket/Xcelerate/ShowPage&c=Page&cid=100702
9391629&a=KArticle&aid=1188499249861

[7] treated: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/03/08/news/brits.php
[8] raise awareness: http://www.weoweittothem.com/
[9] quietly airlifted: http://www.iht.com/articles/2007/07/21/africa/21iraq-web.php
[10] realised: http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/georgepacker/2007/09/the-senate-does.html