Sept. 21 (UPI) -- Over 150 civilian interpreters used by the British military in Afghanistan can apply to permanently reside in Britain, the government said.
The relocation program was established in 2013 as a debt of gratitude for the interpreters' service, and included an opportunity to relocate to Britain. So far, 445 former interpreters and their families have relocated.
The announcement on Saturday by the Ministry of Defense is an extension of the program, under which visas for the 150 were scheduled to expire in 2021.
"They were often the eyes and ears of British forces, and their linguistic and cultural expertise enabled the U.K. to work hand-in-hand with our Afghan partners and local communities while protecting British troops," a ministry statement said.
The interpreters worked on the front lines in Afghanistan's Helmand province with troops from 2006 until the British withdrawal in 2014.
The British government was accused of failing to protect them from Taliban reprisals after the withdrawal, and a 2018 report by parliament's Defense Committee said safeguards "had dismally failed to give any meaningful assurance of protection."
"Courageous Afghans worked side by side with our Armed Forces to defeat terrorism, risking their own lives in the pursuit of peace," Patel said. "In recognition of their dedication, today we are fulfilling our promise and have expanded the relocation scheme so that more brave Afghans and their families can come and build a new life in the U.K."