One of the most dangerous times for the British troops in Iraq will be during the withdrawal stage.  But the dangers will be much greater for the Iraqis who have worked with our armed forces as, for example, interpreters.

Today’s Times carries a report that Gordon Brown’s Government is ignoring calls from senior British army officers calling for special treatment of 91 individuals who have risked their lives by working with our troops and are now being targeted as "collaborators".  Both Denmark and the USA are making special arrangements for those Iraqis who have worked closely with their armed forces.  A leader in The Times says that Britain should not abandon "its bravest allies in Iraq".

Shadow Foreign Secretary William Hague is quoted in the article – encouraging a more generous response from the Government:

“Britain has benefited from the services of these Iraqis in carrying out our responsibilities in Iraq. As Britain reduces its military presence in Iraq, we ought to look to the safety of those who have risked their lives to help us.”

The Conservatives should have a tough policy on immigration but we should favour an asylum system that is generous to those people who genuinely face persecution.  William Hague is adopting the right position on this difficult issue.

This controversy comes a time when the US troops surge may be beginning to produce some advances in security.  An article in last week’s New York Times by previous critics of the Iraq war confirms the positive, if not conclusive, trend identified by the BBC’s John Simpson a month ago.

10.45am update from today’s Washington Post:
"The British have basically been defeated in the south," a senior U.S. intelligence official said recently in Baghdad. They are abandoning their former headquarters at Basra Palace, where a recent official visitor from London described them as "surrounded like cowboys and Indians" by militia fighters. An airport base outside the city, where a regional U.S. Embassy office and Britain’s remaining 5,500 troops are barricaded behind building-high sandbags, has been attacked with mortars or rockets nearly 600 times over the past four months."  More here.

1.30pm: This from Damian Green, Shadow Immigration Minister: "“Anyone whose life is at risk because of work they have done for Britain must have a strong case to be granted asylum.  “Each case would have to be looked at on its merits but, just because the Government has reduced the asylum and immigration system to chaos, does not mean that we should lose sight of our proper humanitarian instincts.”

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