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Ministers See No Reason for Fresh Look at 'Omar' Case

US soldiers with an Afghan interpreter in Kandahar Province in January 2012
US soldiers with an Afghan interpreter in Kandahar Province in January 2012 Source: Photo: AP/Scanpix

After reports that the UK could offer hundreds of Afghan interpreters five-year visas to protect them against possible Taliban retributions, Estonia's government officials have said they will not reconsider the decision to deny asylum to "Omar," an Afghan who worked as an interpreter for the Estonian military and whose story has been widely covered by the media.

"A precedent from the UK or any other country is not necessary because the decision on this specific case was made on an individual basis. Other potential asylum and resettlement applications are likewise decided on a case by case basis. In other words, if there is a sufficient argument for granting asylum the decision will be positive, and if not, the application will be turned down," Foreign Minister Urmas Paet told ETV on Wednesday.

While the position was also echoed by Defense Minister Urmas Reinsalu, Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam, a fellow member of the defense minister's party, IRL, had encouraged decision-makers to reconsider. He took issue with the assertion that Afghanistan is a safe place for those cooperating with NATO, something that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had said a day before the Omar decision during his visit to Estonia in April.

"By no means can you say that Iraq is a safe country, much less so Afghanistan, where a civil war still officially continues. So in that sense we cannot guarantee the safety of people who have cooperated with the allied forces. It would be hypocritical and completely out of touch with reality," Kelam told ERR radio.

"Looking at the UK government's decision, there are clearly defined conditions. It will not be forever, but it gives those people breathing room, greater security and that is important. It is a gesture of solidarity to the people who have for years fought for freedom and democracy in Afghanistan," Kelam said.

"It's a matter of principle. A small country's politics should be based foremost on principles and one of our principles is definitely solidarity."

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