Afghan refugee fled to Glasgow with family to escape Taliban torture

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Media caption,

The former British Army interpreter spoke to the BBC anonymously because of concerns about his previous job

An Afghan refugee who feared he would be tortured and beheaded by the Taliban said he feels "relief" at being resettled in Glasgow with his family.

The 38-year-old worked as an interpreter for the British Army in a northern province of Afghanistan.

Speaking anonymously, the refugee claims his job made him a target for persecution by insurgents.

Along with his wife and three-year-old daughter, he arrived in Scotland this summer under a UK resettlement scheme.

He said: "If I continued to stay in Afghanistan, I would be tortured by the Taliban and then killed by them. They perceived interpreters are traitors.

"There were many incidents with other Afghan interpreters. They were tortured, killed and beheaded to give a clear message to others to stop helping international forces."

This man is one of more than 2,000 former Afghan staff and their families to have arrived under the existing Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) since June.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Taliban have seized control of Afghanistan after US and British troops pulled out

This scheme is separate to the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme announced by the UK government in the wake of Kabul falling to the Taliban.

The father-of-one continued: "It was difficult for me to say goodbye to my father. I didn't have a chance to hug him because of Covid. I said goodbye from a distance and he started crying.

"I had to leave behind the community I belonged to, my friends, my job and the opportunity to study my Masters degree. It was such a fearful situation. I had to make a very difficult decision to live or be killed by insurgents. It makes life not meaningful for you. You are waiting for your death."

Reacting to his resettlement in Glasgow, he said: "It is such a sense of relief. Life is now completely different."

Image caption,
Selina Hales, of the charity Refuweegee, supports refugees who live in Glasgow

The UK is to take up to 20,000 vulnerable Afghans over the coming years as part of a new resettlement plan following the Taliban takeover of their country.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced 5,000 people will arrive in the programme's first year but opposition parties argue more fleeing Afghans should be welcomed.

'We should be aiming higher'

The SNP's Westminster leader Ian Blackford has argued that the future of Afghanistan had "never been so uncertain" and that refugees needed more help.

Glasgow-based charity Refuweegee supports 150 refugees every week with support packages. It is standing by to help the new Afghan arrivals.

Founder Selina Hales told the BBC that Scotland has the infrastructure in place following the 2015 Syrian resettlement programme.

More than 2,500 Syrians settled in Scotland during that emergency.

She said: "I do think we should be aiming higher. We have the capacity, housing and commitment to do this.

"The Syrian agreement showed us that local authorities across Scotland were keen to support and welcome families.

"Some of those local authorities only received two or three families. They now know the script and understand the type of support families need."