DUBAI: British military hero Simon Weston has become the latest high-profile public figure to speak out in support of an Afghan pilot who fought alongside British troops in his native country but is now facing deportation from the UK to Rwanda.
After being denied any safe and legal route to asylum in the United Kingdom, the pilot made his own way to the country after months of hiding from the Taliban following the withdrawal of Western forces from Afghanistan in August 2021, eventually landing onboard a small boat.
Weston, a veteran of Argentina’s 1982 Falklands conflict, warned that if the UK government deports the pilot, no one will ever be willing to risk their life supporting British military operations abroad again, according to The Independent newspaper on Wednesday.
Weston, who was severely burned on nearly half of his body when the battleship he was serving on was hit during the Falkland War, said he was “genuinely saddened and upset” by the Home Office’s threat to deport the pilot.
Deportation to Rwanda is a strategy aimed at economic migrants who enter the nation illegally, according to the UK government. Sir Richard Dannatt, the former chief of the British Army, chimed in last month, saying that there is clearly a “flaw in evolving British policy” and that the airman should be considered a “special case” for refuge.
Since The Independent revealed the pilot’s plight, there have been calls for UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to show more support for Afghan heroes who assisted British troops.
Weston stated that the airman had “done nothing wrong” by traveling to the UK in the manner he did, and that he had demonstrated courage, initiative, and resourcefulness in doing so.
“This is all about humanity, and he deserves to be here because of the risks he took,” he continued. “This isn’t a political issue, it’s not about one side or the other; the only side we should take here is humanity’s.”
Weston, a former Welsh Guardsman, stated that the pilot had obviously demonstrated his knowledge and competence by joining the Afghan air force and would be a “benefit” to the UK. The British veteran is the most recent of more than 20 military and political leaders to join The Independent’s fight to stop the deportation.
The Royal British Legion, which represents tens of thousands of armed services members, veterans, and their families in the United Kingdom, also urged the government to “honor its commitment” to assisting Afghan war heroes who worked with British soldiers.
According to Arab News, the pilot’s US supervisor characterized him as a “patriot to his nation.”
The airman had been warned that traveling to the UK without authorization could have “consequences for whether (his) claim is admitted to the UK asylum system” and could result in deportation to Rwanda, in accordance with government policy targeting migrants who arrive on small boats.
However, the pilot claimed that British authorities had “forgotten” him and asked, “What safe and legal way was there after the fall of Afghanistan?”