The British Ministry of Defense has made a huge mistake. An employee sent an email to 250 Afghan interpreters seeking shelter in the UK. In addition, private details of the interpreters were copied from another e-mail from the ministry. This allowed all recipients to see the interpreters’ names, email addresses, contact details and in some cases profile photos. Minister Ben Wallace has apologized for the incident and said he is doing everything he can to prevent a recurrence in the future. He has the matter investigated.
Afghan interpreters want to go to the United Kingdom
The email was sent to Afghan interpreters who have worked for the British armed forces and are currently in Afghanistan or other countries. Since the Taliban took power a month ago, Afghans who have worked for Western countries are no longer safe in their own country. These are interpreters, security personnel, soldiers and Afghans who have performed related work. Because they fear for their lives now that the Taliban are in power, they want to emigrate. The Netherlands has received more than 20,000 applications for transfer.
The United Kingdom has been one of the countries that has tried to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan over the past twenty years. Like other European countries, the British want to mean something to the Afghans who no longer want to stay in their country, or who have gone into hiding from the new rulers.
The Ministry of Defense wanted to send an email to 250 Afghan interpreters and other personnel. Their names, email addresses, contact details and profile photos were accidentally copied from a ministry email. This information was then sent to the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP).
‘This mistake could cost the lives of interpreters’
The ARAP team promised the interpreters in the email that they would do everything they could to help them emigrate to the UK. The e-mail also stated that the interpreters should not leave their current residence if this poses a danger. One of the interpreters then saw that the private details of more than 250 Afghan interpreters had been copied to the e-mail.
“This mistake could cost the lives of interpreters, especially those who are still in Afghanistan,” he told BBC News. “Some interpreters failed to notice the error and replied to all emails and explained their situation, which is very dangerous.”
Half an hour later, the Ministry of Defense sent another email to the Afghan interpreters. In it, the department advised to delete the previous email. The ministry also warned that their email address may have been disclosed. They were therefore advised to change their e-mail address.
Minister Wallace angry about data breach, launches an investigation
The British Parliament is not happy about the incident. Shadow Secretary of Defense John Healey (Labour) said the data breach has “necessarily endangered lives.” He calls on the government to do its best to get the interpreters to the UK. Former Defense Secretary Johnny Mercer (Conservative Party) has said the incident “will have a major impact on the people who are still in the country.” Party colleague Tobias Ellwood wants the interpreters to be brought to the United Kingdom as soon as possible. “Every day they stay there, the risk that they will not leave the country increases,” he fears.
Defense Secretary Ben Wallace is also not happy with the situation. He has apologized and called the data breach “unacceptable.” A spokesperson for the ministry says that the minister has ordered an investigation into the circumstances of the leak. “We apologize to everyone affected and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again,” the spokesperson told BBC News. She emphasizes that the ministry takes the handling of sensitive data very seriously.