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Ilves: Estonia Has Moral Responsibility to Protect Afghan Interpreter

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves
President Toomas Hendrik Ilves Source: Photo: Postimees/Scanpix

Reiterating remarks he made in April, President Toomas Hendrik Ilves has said he disapproved of the government's decision not to grant asylum to "Omar," the Afghan interpreter who worked for the Estonian military in Afghanistan.

Estonia's foreign policy has supported numerous international resolutions to help the weak, Ilves said, but when approached with a specific case, decision-makers hid behind the shadow of bureaucracy.

"I don't support this attitude - I continue to believe that supporting the weak is the moral responsibility of the strong," Ilves told

Following the UK's decision this week to grant its own interpreters asylum, Estonia's foreign and defense ministers said Thursday that they saw no reason to review the asylum application that was turned down at the beginning of May. They have said that the decision was not a political one and that asylum applications are reviewed case by case, based on a given individual's need for protection.

Ilves said the UK should be a role model for Estonia, whose troops have served alongside the British in southern Afghanistan.

"It's not just about our generosity. We need to consider that interpreters, thanks to the right decisions they've made in battle, have saved the lives of many coalition soldiers. The lives of quite a few Estonian soldiers as well," Ilves said.

"That truth holds us responsible for much more than Estonia has so far done. When we say that we won't leave our own behind, then remember that that includes our units' interpreters who risk their lives with their work."

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