Afghan translator 'counting down the minutes' to see family after finally receiving UK visa

25 April 2022, 18:21 | Updated: 27 April 2022, 19:56

Afghan interpreter left waiting six years for help

Rachael Venables

By Rachael Venables

An Afghan translator has told LBC he is 'counting down the minutes' to see his wife and four children, after finally receiving a visa to come to the UK.

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On Monday we reported the plight of Mohammed Nabi Wardak, a translator who worked with British army in Afghanistan between 2008 and 2011.

He fled the country in 2016 after the Taliban tried to kill him, but despite his bravery during his years of 'excellent' service with our troops, he told he was ineligible to receive asylum.

He then spent years homeless in Greece, while his family eventually fled to a refugee camp in Pakistan last summer.

Then, the Government changed the requirements for support staff last year, and in September he and his family were approved for the 'ARAP' scheme.

But, he's been waiting for six months in a hotel room in Greece to get his visa to come to Britain.

That finally arrived this week and the whole family are booked onto flights to England next Thursday.

This means Nabi will see his wife and four children for the first time in six years.

Previously he said the trauma this all caused his children had made him want to 'burn himself' in front of the British embassy.

Mohammed Nabi Wardak served in Helmand between 2008 and 2011 alongside British troops
Mohammed Nabi Wardak served in Helmand between 2008 and 2011 alongside British troops. Picture: LBC/Alamy

Nabi, who risked his life working with the British Army in Afghanistan, accused the British Government of 'psychological torture' after waiting six years to be brought to the UK.

Described by commanding officers as "excellent interpreter" and "by far the best in the area of operations", he told of the many times he risked his life for his comrades, who - he proudly stated - called him "hero" and "brother".

But, in 2016 he was forced to leave behind his wife and young children and flee Afghanistan, after the Taliban tried to kill him for his work with the British military.

He ended up in Greece, living homeless on the streets of Athens while repeatedly being rejected for asylum by the British Government.

More than 100,000 people signed a petition for him to be brought to the UK, but nothing changed until the fall of Kabul last summer when he and his family were finally approved for asylum with the ARAP scheme (UK’s Afghan Relocation Assistance Programme.)

He sent off his passport, while his wife and children fled for a refugee camp in Pakistan. At the time he believed he’d be reunited with his family in days.

Read more: Furious Homes for Ukraine hosts seek answers over 'lost data' holding up visas

“From September 24 last year until today, they took my passport. For the six, seven months I spent in the hotel I couldn’t work. I was not understanding how long I’d be staying in this hotel," he said.

His youngest son was just one when he left. He's now seven, and it breaks Nabi's heart that he doesn't know or trust his Dad.

He said: “My children, they don’t want to talk with me. They say dad you’re lying to us. You have another wife, you have another children. When I hear that from my children, it’s like a kind of torture in my psychology."

Nabi's story isn't just a one off.

Last week it was reported there are still 1,000 accepted applicants to the ARAP scheme – along with their family members – still trapped and waiting in Afghanistan

Charity workers told the Independent that British staff processing the visas had been diverted to also cover the applications by Ukraine refugees - only slowing down the process further.

An MOD spokesperson said: “We are pleased to have relocated over 9,000 interpreters and their dependants to the UK and are determined to continue with this work.

“Supporting eligible Afghans to relocate to the UK remains a Government priority and no one responsible for processing these applications in the MOD has been moved due to the war in Ukraine."

Fiyaz Mughal, founder of Faith Matters has been supporting Nabi since 2018, said: "I came across Nabi’s case in 2018 from the refugee charity - Forge for Change - and flew out to Greece since I was moved by his case.

"He was a young translator who spent 3 years translating with our forces in Helmand and he saw many Afghans die protecting our war effort. He was twice targeted by the Taliban to kill him and he fled to Greece to stop them targeting his family.

"I found Nabi relying on charity, handouts and he was destitute. It was a sickening situation to see someone who stood with us in the field in this position.

"I have been campaigning for 4 years to have Mohammed Nabi get approval to be part of the Afghan Relocation Scheme now called ARAP. Document after document was sent in with few responses, until, after significant pressure the Govt accepted him onto ARAP in June 2021.

"I repeatedly asked the Govt to issue him a visa from Greece and they, to date have not even responded with anything favourable.

"Nabi’s family had to make their own way to Pakistan and Nabi and his children have been unnecessarily emotionally scarred by the pathetic hurdles that this Government has put into place.

"They barely respond, one department does not know what the other has document wise and I have the found the process an omni-shambles. But this Government will happily move heaven and earth to remove dogs from Afghanistan. Nabi and his family deserve better. "