Yet More Iraqi Employees

There was a pretty good segment on the Today Programme this morning at about ten to eight. You can listen to it (I think) by clicking this link (at least for a bit, at any rate).

And then the Prime Minister made his statement this afternoon about Iraq, in which he said this:

Mr Speaker, I would also like to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the work of our civilian and locally employed staff in Iraq, many of whom have worked in extremely difficult circumstances exposing themselves and their families to danger.

And I am pleased therefore to announce today a new policy which more fully recognises the contribution made by our local Iraqi staff who work for our armed forces and civilian missions in uniquely difficult circumstances.

Existing staff who have been employed by us for more than twelve months and have completed their work will be able to apply for a package of financial payments to aid resettlement in Iraq or elsewhere in the region, or – in agreed circumstances – for admission to the UK. And professional staff — including interpreters and translators — with a similar length of service who have left our employ since the beginning of 2005 will also be able to apply for assistance.

We will make a further written statement on the detail of this scheme this week.

Well, obviously we’ll have to wait to see what’s in the further written statement.

But if anyone thinks this campaign is over, think again. We don’t want a quota of 500 (as floated in the papers quite recently), we don’t want the “financial packages” and the “agreed circumstances” to mean “bullying people into not seeking refuge in Britain”, and we badly need an explanation of why the assistance will only go to those who “have been employed by us for more than twelve months”, as it’s not unreasonable to think that there are people who worked for the British Armed Forces in Iraq for shorter periods of time who are nevertheless being threatened, tortured and killed. (If the death squads don’t make these fine discriminations, it’s not especially clear why HMG should, either.)

So tomorrow’s campaign meeting will still go ahead, as planned, but please note the change of venue: it’s now in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House, but at the same time, from 7-9pm. We haven’t seen the written statement, and there’s still time to make a difference, and to tell the politicians what we think of them.

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