Tuesday, September 04, 2007

It's all in the Timing

Yesterday, British troops withdrew from Basra city. The pathetic spinning which accompanied it would have been amusing but for the tens of thousands of deaths it attempts to cover up. It is clear that the heavier the incoming political fire, the more the cheerleaders for the war take cover behind "our boys" in Iraq. How very brave...

As the British troops' main mission now appears to be to act as target practice for Shia militias, the withdrawal from Basra city is nevertheless a step in the right direction.

One cause for concern, however, is the safety of locally employed staff who have been working for British forces. In one of those curious coincidences, I received a follow up reply from my MP this morning on the issue of asylum for Iraqis at risk because of their association with British troops. He had passed on my concerns to the Home Office back in July. Here's the reply he was sent (dated 29th August):
Thank you for your letter to Liam Byrne of 25th July on behalf of Garry Smith of.... I have been asked to reply.

Mr Smith asks us to grant asylum in the United Kingdom to locally engaged staff who have helped the British Forces in Iraq.

We are extremely grateful for the service of locally employed staff in Iraq and take their security very seriously. We recognise that there are concerns about the safety of locally employed staff. We keep all such issues under review and we will now look again at the assistance we provide. The total number of Iraqis who have worked for us since 2003 with a claim to assistance could be at least 15,000. We therefore need to consider the options carefully in this genuinely complex area.

The Prime Minister has commissioned a trilateral Ministerial review to consider the options. The Home Office, Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office are the members of the review group, which will present recommendations to Ministers in late September. At this stage it would not be appropriate to pre-empt the recommendations. I hope this reassures yo that we are taking seriously the issues that have been raised surrounding locally employed staff working for the UK in Iraq.
They say that the secret of good comedy is timing and again, this would be funny if it wasn't about people having holes drilled in their skulls.

Is it not absolutely unequivocally clear that this review needed to be completed and Ministerial decisions made before the British withdrawal from Basra city? Not for our government apparently. Perhaps that's why Des Browne's figure of around 20,000 Iraqis who may need assistance has now fallen to 15,000. A few more weeks, especially now that the troops are not inside Basra, and that may have fallen to even more manageable numbers.

If you are able not to think about the fact that we're talking about people who could be saved being abandoned by our government to be tortured to death, it all seems perfectly reasonable.

Join the campaign.


Dan said...

Garry, that's a brilliant post. Thanks very much. Can you just tell me who your MP is? I tried to email you, but I got a bounceback. My email address is danhardie.blog@gmail.com

We do need to know to keep count of MPs, so we know who we can lobby. Also, you're very much invited to come to the meeting at Parliament (St Stephen's Entrance, then Committee Room 14) on Tuesday 9th October from 7-9 pm. I'll send a PDF invitation for you, and if you want to invite them a letter for your MP, in a few days.

Cheers again
Dan Hardie

Dan said...

Oh God, you did say who your MP was- Robert Smith. Sorry, am a little tired. Email me if poss, so I can send you an invitation for the speaker event. Maybe the problem with reaching your gmail account was just temporary.