Second Afghan interpreter data breach uncovered at Ministry of Defence

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace

According to reports, some of those whose information has been released are in hiding from the Taliban

Published

A second email data breach has been uncovered at the Ministry of Defence (MoD) in the team responsible for relocating Afghan allies to the UK.

Dozens of people who may be eligible to come to the UK under the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (Arap) were mistakenly copied into an email earlier this month.

However, their email addresses were visible to all recipients, rather than being blind-copied to protect their identity.

Under the Arap scheme any Afghans who assisted UK efforts in Afghanistan, such as interpreters, can apply to come to the UK due to their risk of persecution at the hands of the Taliban.

There are fears that they may be put further at risk by the breach if the information falls into the wrong hands.

The saga is the second of its kind after Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told MPs on Tuesday a staff member had been suspended for the first breach.

The BBC reported the details of 55 people were included in the email referred to in the latest investigation.

An MoD spokesperson said: “We have been made aware of a data breach that occurred earlier this month by the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy team. This week, the Defence Secretary instigated an investigation into data handling within that team.

“Steps have now been taken to ensure this does not happen in the future. We apologise to those affected and extra support is being offered to them.”

It comes one day after Mr Wallace issued a House of Commons apology and told MPs he “immediately directed investigations” take place after the previous breach involving more than 250 people.

According to reports, some of those whose information has been released are in hiding from the Taliban after the militants took control of the battle-torn country last month.

Responding to an urgent question, Mr Wallace told the Commons: “I apologise to those Afghans affected by this data breach and with (the Home Office) we are now working with them to provide security advice.

“As I speak, the Minister for the Armed Forces (James Heappey) is in the region speaking to neighbouring countries to see what more we can do with both third countries and in-country applicants.

“It is an unacceptable level of service that has let down the thousands of members of the armed forces and veterans. On behalf of the Ministry of Defence, I apologise.

“I offer the reassurances that the scheme will continue to operate and bring people back to the United Kingdom for however many are eligible and however long it takes.”

Mr Wallace later confirmed Admiral Sir Ben Key, the commander of joint operations who led the planning and evacuation from Kabul, is leading the investigation and one person had been suspended.

It comes after documents identifying Afghan workers and job applicants were found on the ground at the British diplomatic mission in Kabul last month.

Mr Wallace said at the time: “Clearly it’s not good enough.”