UK: High Court rules that assistance scheme for Afghan interpreters was not discriminatory

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

R (on the application of Hottak & Anor) v The Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs & Anor [2015] EWHC 1953 (Admin) (08 July 2015)

This case relates to two locally engaged interpreters that worked for the UK government in Afghanistan. They challenged the assistance and relocation scheme set up by the British government for Afghan interpreters, aimed at keeping former Afghan staff safe in case of risks arising from their former employment. The Claimants argued that the scheme unlawfully discriminated against them based on their nationality, as a similar, but more generous, scheme had been put in place for locally engaged staff in Iraq. 

The High Court made a declaratory order that the government had failed to have due regard to relevant equality issues when the policy was being developed. However, it considered that the government’s employment of Afghan interpreters in Afghanistan was outside the territorial scope of British employment law, as it did not have a closer connection with Great Britain than Afghanistan. It agreed with the Claimants’ analysis that the Iraqi scheme was more generous to local staff in terms of relocation possibility, but found that this was due to material differences between the circumstances in the two countries and the circumstances of the staff, with different levels of threat and risk. As such there was no direct or indirect discrimination on grounds of nationality.  The Court granted permission to appeal due to the ‘novelty’ of the issues relating to discrimination. 

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