The British government is being accused of reneging on a promise to help former Iraqi employees move to the United Kingdom. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA.
The accusation appeared in a story Wednesday in the Times of London newspaper. The report says 125 of 200 interpreters who took up the offer to relocate to Britain were, in the end, turned down. The Times cites three cases where former employees were told they were ineligible, because of absenteeism on the job.
The Iraqis, however, claim that when they failed to report for work it was because they feared for their lives. They say they are living in fear of reprisal from Shi'ite militias for having worked for the British government.
Britain's Ministry of Defense, in a written statement to VOA, denied it is reneging on its policy of assistance. It said the ministry fully recognizes the difficulties of those not able to work because of intimidation. The ministry's decisions, the statement added, are based on records taken at the time. It said cases would be reconsidered should individuals provide further evidence to support their case.
But Peter Kessler of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the UNHCR, said Britain and other countries are not responding to the plight of Iraqis under threat with the urgency their cases deserve.
"The biggest problem we are facing globally is that many countries are moving very slowly to take up Iraqi refugees who need urgent resettlement from the region. All countries have an urgent responsibility to act speedily to try to move refugees from the Middle East region if they are facing threats," he said.
Kessler added that there is pressure on the British government resulting from media coverage that has demonized refugees and made some communities wary of an influx.
In August, Prime Minister Gordon Brown promised the government would fulfill its "duty of care" to those who had served with British troops. Foreign Secretary David Milliband, The Times says, also announced a resettlement scheme for Iraqi refugees.
The 200 interpreters are among 600 Iraqis who worked for the British in Iraq and have applied to come to Britain. The Times report says Members of Parliament have asked the government to reconsider the applications.