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Swedish army translator flees Afghanistan

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Unrelated picture from Kandahar, Afghanistan. File photo: Shutterstock
08:34 CET+01:00
An Afghan interpreter who told The Local of his fight for asylum in Sweden has since fled his home country, after insurgents tortured a relative to find out where he was hiding.

"'If we find you we will kill you'," Fahim recalled being told by the Taliban as he contacted The Local this week after leaving Afghanistan behind. "Several weeks they were chasing me, they asked some of my friends where I was."

Fahim had gone underground after receiving threatening phone calls and letters, but stayed relatively close to his family, which soon proved untenable. The young Afghan claimed that the Taliban had kidnapped a close relative, tortured him, and tried to force him to tell them where Fahim was hiding. 

Fahim, which is not his real name, worked for the Swedish Isaf forces in Mazar-e-Sharif in the north of the country. The Swedish Armed Forces have confirmed that he was in their employ. Sweden's Armed Forces currently have just shy of 30 translators either working directly for them or subcontracted through the company Supreme. However, officials did not have an exact figure of how many translators its soldiers have worked with in Mazar-e-Sharif since leading operations there in 2006. 

The young man said that he was part of a group of 24 interpreters that last year implored Sweden to grant them asylum due to threats levelled at people who had worked for foreign forces.

Swedish migration law, however, states that an applicant must physically be in Sweden to submit his or her case. Fahim has asked Sweden's Camp Northern Lights for help, and he has also now contacted the Swedish embassy in the country where he has taken refuge.

READ ALSO: Afghan translator pins hope on Swedish asylum

In December 2013, the Migration Board announced it would grant asylum to several Isaf interpreters, without specifying the number. Fahim was not one of them.

His former colleagues were granted asylum as part of the UNHCR-managed refugee quota system, which Migration Board department head Oskar Eklund said is determined by the Swedish parliament. Neither his staff nor the Armed Forces have the power to alter the number of quota refugees.

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As Fahim remains in limbo, he said he was hoping for news from the Swedish embassy. 

"But still I did not get any answer," Fahim told The Local. 

This article was updated at 14.17pm on March 14th, 2014. The Migration Board granted asylum to an undisclosed number of interpreters in December 2013, not 30 as previously stated. 

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