A counselor 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 with 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 affects him today.
The British Embassy advised him to travel to Kabul with his family. They had to hide for several days after the Taliban took over.
He received a call from the British Embassy directing him to meet British soldiers. They were able to lift him through the barbed wire to take him on a flight, as large crowds gathered around 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 stated that she is working with a small number of volunteers and military interpreters to help families and those who were summoned for evacuation flights, but couldn’t make it through Taliban checkpoints.
She stated that no UK Government department has provided any guidance or communication since August.
“We have a moral duty to assist the Afghan interpreters who walked the same streets as our soldiers,” Ms. Webster agreed.
“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.”
I have daily conversations with people asking for ‘any news ma’am? Any news ma’am?
Ms. Webster successfully appealed for a number of Afghans, who were initially rejected for the Arap scheme. She said that many others have contacted her to say they are being targeted because of 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 spokesperson for the Ministry of Defence 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.”