British war hero Simon Weston is the latest high-profile public figure to offer support for an Afghan pilot who fought alongside British troops in his home country but now faces the threat of deportation from the UK to Rwanda.
Denied any safe, legal route to asylum in Britain, the pilot made his own way to the country after spending months in hiding from the Taliban following the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan
in August 2021, eventually arriving aboard a small boat.
Weston, a veteran of the 1982 Falklands war against Argentina, said that if the UK government deports the pilot, no one will ever again be prepared to risk their lives supporting British military operations abroad, The Independent newspaper reported on Wednesday.
Weston, who suffered severe burns to nearly 50 percent of his body when the warship he was serving on was bombed during the Falklands conflict, said he was “genuinely saddened and upset” by the Home Office threat to deport the pilot.
Deportation to Rwanda is a policy the UK government has said is designed to target economic migrants who arrive in the country by illegal means. Last month, Sir Richard Dannatt, the former head of the British Army, weighed in on the issue and said that there is clearly a “flaw in evolving British policy” and the airman should be considered a “special case” for asylum.
Since the pilot’s plight was revealed by The Independent, there have been calls for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to provide more support for Afghan heroes who aided British troops.
Weston said the airman had “done nothing wrong” by coming to the UK the way he did, and had shown courage, endeavor and ingenuity in doing so.
“This is all about humanity and he deserves to be here because of the risks he took,” he added. “This is not a political thing, it’s not about one side or another; the only side we should come down on here is humanity’s side.”
Weston, who served with the Welsh Guards, said the pilot had clearly shown his intelligence and ability by joining the Afghan air force and would be a “benefit” to the UK. The British veteran is the latest of more than 20 military figures and politicians who have backed The Independent’s campaign to prevent the deportation.
The Royal British Legion, which represents tens of thousands of armed forces personnel, veterans and their families in the UK, also urged the government to “honor its commitment” to help Afghan war heroes who worked alongside British forces.
As reported previously by Arab News, the pilot was described by his US supervisor as a “patriot to his nation.”
The airman had been warned that if he traveled to the UK without authorization it could have “consequences for whether (his) claim is admitted to the UK asylum system” and might result in deportation to Rwanda in line with government policy targeting migrants who arrive in the country on small boats.
However, the pilot said he had been “forgotten” by British authorities and added: “What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan