In a written statement to Parliament Mr Hammond said that the UK government had decided to implement a generous package of training and support for its locally engaged staff in Afghanistan in recognition of their contribution to the shared goal of a more secure, stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
Mr Hammond stated:
Without them, the UK’s contribution to the international mission would not have been possible. We pay tribute to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice and those who have been injured whilst working with us.
The [UK] government wants to encourage local staff to stay in Afghanistan and to use their skills and knowledge to make it stronger, better able to meet the challenges ahead, and to seize the opportunities.
The package will provide local staff with up to 5 years of training or education in Afghanistan, in a subject of their own choosing, and a living stipend for the full period of training, based on their final salary.
Staff who prefer not to take up the training package will be offered a second option – a financial severance payment which represents 18 months’ salary, to be paid in monthly instalments.
These options aim to encourage local staff to develop valuable skills and knowledge in Afghanistan so they can go on contributing to a brighter future for themselves, their families and their country.
The government acknowledges that some local staff, such as interpreters, have worked in particularly dangerous and challenging roles in Helmand. In recognition of this unique and exceptional service to the United Kingdom, these local staff and their immediate families will be offered a third option – resettlement in the UK. In order to help them adjust to life in the UK, they will be offered initial assistance and accommodation, including access to benefits, as well as support in seeking employment.
To be eligible for resettlement in the UK, local staff must have routinely worked in dangerous and challenging roles in Helmand outside protected bases. Seriously injured staff, who might have qualified had their employment not been terminated due to injuries sustained in combat, are also included. Local staff who were contracted by the UK but who mostly worked for Danish or Estonian forces, and who meet the criteria above, are also eligible. This approach has been agreed with the Danish and Estonian governments.
Qualification for this redundancy scheme is limited to those local staff who were in post, working directly for Her Majesty’s Government, on 19 December 2012, when the Prime Minister announced the drawdown of UK forces, and who will have served more than 12 months when they are made redundant.
In total, it is estimated that around 1,200 local staff will qualify for a redundancy package. Of these, it is thought up to 600 will be eligible for resettlement, though they may choose to stay in Afghanistan to help build its future, supported by the training and financial packages.