TWO hundred translators from Afghanistan who risked their lives working for the British Army face “discrimination” over attending college and universities in Scotland, it has been claimed.

The Scottish Government has been accused of unfair treatment of the military interpretors who were given special leave to stay in the UK after aiding British forces in the fight against Osama Bin Laden.

They have been told they do not qualify for support to study for higher and further education qualifications as they have not lived in the country for long enough and are not seen as “settled”, Further Education, Higher Education and Science minister Shirley-Anne Somerville said in a letter.

Had they come to the UK as refugees they would also be eligible to claim support.

Herald view: Interpreters are right to demand help to access education

The translators say that former colleagues living in England under the special visa scheme do receive financial support, because the rules are interpreted differently there.

Around 200 former Afghani interpreters are thought to have moved to Scotland since UK involvement in the country ended in 2014 after supporters waged a high profile battle, arguing their work had put their lives and those of their families at risk from reprisals by the Taliban.

Some 385 former Ministry of Defence employees and their families have moved to the UK and another 60 families are expected to relocate over the next year.

One of the Scotland-based interpreters Ahmad Ramish, said he wants to gain qualifications so that he can contribute to his new home.

“We are told that the system does not allow us to do that and it makes us very upset,” he said.

Herald view: Interpreters are right to demand help to access education

“We worked for the MOD, saved many British soldiers’ lives in Afghanistan and put ourselves and our families in danger,” he said.

His compatriot and fellow interpreter Wali added: “Our colleagues in England are allowed, but we are not. We should be allowed to pursue our dream.”

Mohammed Asif, director of the Afghan Human Rights Foundation said: “These guys sacrificed for the British Government. Their colleagues in England can access higher education, or college education.

"They should be entitled the same in Scotland, it is unfair. Without them the armed forces would not have been able to do any kind of job in Afghanistan.”

Herald view: Interpreters are right to demand help to access education

The group asked for a meeting with Education Secretary John Swinney, but received a letter from Ms Somerville following an enquiry on their behalf from Sandra White MSP.

Ms Somerville said they were not eligible for loans or other funding to help meet the cost of learning.

“While the scheme for Afghan interpreters provides individuals leave to remain in the UK for a set period, they are not settled within the meaning of the Immigration Act 1971,” she said.

“A student who applies to attend university with this type of visa is not eligible... they do not meet our general residency rules or any of the exceptions to them.”

Ms Somerville added that if they apply for indefinite leave to remain (ILR) in the country, interpreters admitted to the UK under the scheme “may become eligible for support”.

Herald view: Interpreters are right to demand help to access education

However an ILR application currently costs £2,300 per person, and the interpreters believe they should not have to apply again.

Ms Somerville ‘s letter to Ms White admits the situation places Afghan nationals at a disadvantage and she says she has asked officials to consider it further.

The Home Office has also faced criticism over the resettlement scheme which only allowed the resettlement of interpreters who were working for the MOD on the arbitrary date of December 19 2012, excluding many hundreds more who worked before that date.