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Paper Follows Up on 'Omar,' Officer Goes on Record Supporting Asylum

Source: Photo: Reuters/Scanpix

ERR News's conversations with an Afghan interpreter who wants safe passage to Estonia were also covered this week by several outlets, with tabloid Õhtuleht focuing on the aspect of whether asylum - one proposed option - would be possible.

The paper led off its March 13 story with a interview with an officer who was in command of a reconnaissance group in Afghanistan in 2006 and 2007.

"Morally, granting asylum would be the right thing to do," said reserve Capt. Rene Toomse. "When I was in country, an interpreter who was walking home from the base was shot and killed."

Toomse said that the danger to "Omar," the interpreter for the Estonians from 2010-2012, should not be underestimated.

"The interpreter who requested asylum is definitely not bluffing and the threats are real for him and his family, because any bounty would apply to them."

Õhtuleht focused on the question of whether asylum - one of two options mentioned by the Foreign Ministry, the other being financial aid - was even possible or whether Omar in fact faced a catch-22.

The Migration Board spokeswoman Katrin Rohtla was not aware of any special arrangements that could be made, and cautioned that, in order to ask for asylum, Omar would have to make it to the Estonian border. "Asylum can be sought either at the Estonian border or inside Estonia, long-distance application is not possible," said Rohtla. "The Police and Border Guard makes the decisions on asylum applications - that is, they assess the person's needs for protection."

Õhtuleht also reported on disagreements over which country would ultimately be responsible for making arrangements for Omar's safety. Defense Forces spokeswoman Ingrid Mühling told the paper: "Interpreters are chosen and paid by the United Kingdom" - the ally that heads the Task Force Helmand.

The widely read online news site Delfi also ran a version of ERR's story.

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