Tony Blair, Envoy

This made me laugh, from tehgraun:

“Blair was really astonished and angry,” says the UN official who gave him a presentation on the devastating effects of Israel’s “security barrier”, settlements, checkpoints, and closures on the lives of Palestinians in the occupied territories. “He asked very smart questions, though I did think that someone who was prime minister for so long should already have known these facts.”

David Miliblog

Apparently in response to queries from people like me, the Foreign Secretary David Miliband has posted on his blog about the on-going Iraqi employees issue. Please read what he has to say and comment, but please please please take extra care to be polite when you’re over at his blog. If you’re looking for points to make, some suitable thoughts are easily available in the bulletpoints here.

One other thing: I’ve had comments I’ve posted at that blog vanish without trace in the past. I think it’s cock-up rather than conspiracy, and that the FCO isn’t entirely in control of how to run blogging software. So save a copy of your comment before you hit “submit”, just in case, and do be patient — the comments don’t appear immediately (I suppose for fairly obvious reasons).

Twisting in the Wind

The ministerial statement is here; comments from Dan Hardie, Daniel Davies, Jamie Kenny, Tim Ireland.

I agree — and I also have the same reaction I used to have when Michael Howard used to beat up on refugees and asylum seekers.

It seems to me extraordinary that the Foreign Secretary, whose father escaped from Ostend on the last boat to leave for England in May 1940 and was granted refugee status while at sea, should sign his name to a document arbitrarily abandoning some of the Iraqis whom we employed in and around Basra to the tender mercies of the Shi’ite death squads, and to whom we can easily offer sanctuary, just because they were employed for less than a year. That’s pretty disgraceful, and I expected better from Ralph Miliband’s son.

UPDATE [6.45pm]: Also: Sunny Hundal.

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.

Iraqi Employees Campaign

Dan Hardie, who is not and has never been any kind of doctor, writes:

Gordon Brown may apparently be making a statement on Iraq to the House of Commons tomorrow afternoon, sometime after 2pm. He may or may not mention Britain’s Iraqi employees and the need of some of them for asylum. The Times article of Saturday promises nothing but gave the Government a big, positive headline: classic spin. I have always said, when writing to Jacqui Smith and other Ministers, that to pre-announce asylum for Iraqi employees before they’d actually been taken to safety would increase the risks to them and to the British soldiers who would have to evacuate them. I hope desperately that this won’t happen. I also hope that we will see a genuine promise of resettlement for all who are identified as being seriously at risk for having worked for the British in Iraq.

Brown may or may not promise this on Monday afternoon: frankly they have been so grudging that I doubt it. The Government are going to have to be pushed to do the right thing, so the meeting on Tuesday, October 9th is now more important than ever: we can win if we keep pushing. It’s at Parliament, Committee Room 14, St Stephen’s entrance [UPDATE!] in the Attlee Suite in Portcullis House, which is the MPs’ own office block, opposite the Houses of Parliament from 7-9pm. Invite your MP and come yourself.

I can’t make it down to London on Tuesday, owing to teaching commitments. But I’ve urged my MPs to attend; and if you’re around the capital, perhaps you’d like to show up, too?

Iraqi Employees, Again

After a flurry of stories earlier in the Summer, the papers have quietened down a bit about the ongoing question of whether Iraqis who worked for the British in and around Basra are going to be given sanctuary in this country. The Government says it’s looking at the matter, and we expect to hear something later in the Autumn, but nothing has been done yet, many people are at risk of lethal attack right now, and we don’t have any reason to think that the Government will end up honouring the key demand that all those who have worked for the UK Armed Forces in Southern Iraq be granted asylum over here.

The papers aren’t entirely silent, though. You can read here about the grim situation in Basra and here about the violent death of Moayed Ahmed Khalaf.

And you can continue to do your bit for the cause: write to your MP, if you haven’t already; reply to your MP to emphasise your on-going concern, just in case you think he or she might be thinking that the issue has gone away; and, in particular, try to encourage your MP to go along to Committee Room 14 (St Stephen’s Entrance) on Tuesday 9 October, 7-9pm, for a cross-party meeting organised by the on-line campaign, and supported by Amnesty International and other groups. And if you’re in London that day , you might want to pop along yourself.

PARTLY UPDATED [20.9.2007]: See also here for a recent radio snippet, in which Mark Brockway presents some pretty grim details; here for Dan H’s most recent posting; and here, which is where you should send any details of MPs’ responses. But they can be crap: my local Lib Dem MP Evan Harris, for example, still hasn’t replied to the letter I sent him on 24 July.

Iraqi Employees on the Radio

BBC Radio Five Live’s Pods and Blogs show recently covered the Iraqi employees story, and the blog-based campaign in support of asylum in the UK for those threatened by death-squads in Southern Iraq. You can listen to the relevant segment here, which includes an interview with a man who has been working as a translator with American forces, now in the USA, and with Dan Hardie, too, who stresses that wars have consequences.

If you haven’t already, do write to your MP about this important issue (though a real letter would be even better: the postcode for the House of Commons is SW1A 0AA). If you want to get up to speed on where things stand right now, Dan’s blog is probably the best place to start.

The Verdict of the Stoa

Neil Clark is even more objectionably stupid than Stephen Pollard. In fact, it’s not even close. He’s been ahead of Pollard in the stupidity stakes ever since he started conversing with a spambot in the comments section of his own blog (18 months ago or so? not sure), but he’s now way, way out ahead of the rest of the field.

And remember: this isn’t just about 91 interpreters, and nothing, but nothing has actually yet been achieved. This campaign is about everyone who is in in fear of their lives owing to their links to the British forces in Iraq, and their families: i.e., quite a few thousand people. If you haven’t already, write to your MP. Especially if your MP is Hugh Bayley, who doesn’t seem to have much of a clue.

Campaign video over here. (It’s both funny and gruesome, so be careful.)

UPDATE [5 minutes later]: Jamie Kenny says it so much better than I ever could.

Call for Asylum

My old friend Dan Hardie, whom I met at university and haven’t seen for many years, pops up on blogs from time to time to have arguments with people with whom he disagrees. (They can get quite heated.) But now he’s turned his attention to starting a political campaign, which I want to publicise here, and to support.

The British have been occupying Basra and a chunk of Southern Iraq for four years now. During this time, lots of Iraqis will have worked in one way or another for the occupying forces. And those Iraqis are now the targets of local death squads: see here, for example, for details of what’s been happening to people who have worked as interpreters.

Incredibly, it seems that the British Government is not willing as a matter of course to grant refugee status and asylum in the UK to these people. Dan wants us to write to our MPs to ask that they be promised this status immediately. Whether or not you thought the war was ever a good idea, whatever you think the future of British forces in Southern Iraq should or should not be, however many other Iraqis you think the British Government ought to take in as refugees in recognition of its share of the responsibility for creating the bloody mess that is Iraq today, you ought to be able to agree that those Iraqis whose lives are now at risk because of their work for the British Government in Iraq are at the very least owed sanctuary by that Government.

So write to your MP: this website can be helpful (though politicians always take letters that arrive in the mail on a bit of paper and with a stamp on them a bit more seriously). I’ll be sending my letters off to the two Oxford MPs tomorrow.

And Dan’s original post [here], which provides more details, is reproduced over the fold:

Continue reading “Call for Asylum”