'He saved my life - now we need to save his'
DECORATED Australian army captain and RSL boss Jason Scanes says his life was saved more than once by his Pashtun interpreter in Afghanistan.
Now, he is fighting to return the favour by bringing "Hassan", his wife and young child to the safety of Australia.
The retired serviceman of 20 years and current CEO of the RSL at Maryborough, has left his young family and taken leave to stage an indefinite protest outside the office of Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton.
He says a big part of the reason he and many other Australian, American and British soldiers made it home from Afghanistan unscathed was the assistance provided by Hassan, the man who was by his side through daily high-level intelligence operations.
He's been fighting for five years to bring Hassan, who is being targeted by the Taliban and has already survived an attempt on his life, and his family to Australia.
But an unfortunate glitch, which Mr Scanes insists was the result of a misunderstanding, on Hassan's Visa application meant he was denied entry.
Asked whether he had ever committed a violent act against Australia, Hassan replied "not yet" where he actually meant to say "never".
Mr Scanes explained that for the interpreters, being asked whether they needed a translator (where the interviews are carried out in English) was a point of pride for them, as they viewed themselves as translators - but it could be to their detriment.
"The language barrier is something that exists," he said.
"A lot of them are self-taught English or their English is not the best, but they speak several dialects of their own language.
Hassan was deliberately struck by a car in a marketplace in November, 2016.
His leg was broken in three places and he required medical treatment in Pakistan.
Tormented by thoughts of what could happen to man who risked his life for his, Mr Scanes has faced a significant mental and emotional battle.
"I'm finding it hard to sleep," Mr Scanes said
"His life is in danger because he saved our lives and now they just shrug.
"He has a young boy and a wife.
"He was there doing the best he could for his country and his family."
Other interpreters who assisted Australian soldiers have already found safe harbour on our shores in recognition of their efforts.
In February, Mr Scanes met with Veterans Affairs Minister Michael McCormack, but nothing came of the meeting.
Mr Scanes believes if he can meet with Mr Dutton, he can provide context around any concerns and share stories of his service.
"There were some situations I was placed in that I was not comfortable in and having an interpreter there was absolutely critical to me being able to do my job," he said.
"He was involved in every detail of planning, high level operations with the intelligence sector I worked for.
"My interpreter was with me every single day in Afghanistan, they are mission-essential people.
"We could not complete our missions without them."
In addition to standing outside Mr Dutton's office, Mr Scanes has also started a Facebook page called Forsaken Fighters to bring attention to the case.
There's nothing he wants more than to spend Anzac Day at home with his family and friends.
But if there is no resolution before then, he will still be standing outside Mr Dutton's electorate office, standing by one of the Anzac's greatest creeds - never leaving a mate behind.
"I'm not going to let him down," he said
A spokeswoman from Mr Dutton's office said the Australian Government had put in place rigorous health, character and security checks prior to arrival in Australia under the humanitarian program.
"National security and the protection of Australians has always been and will always be our number one priority," she said.
"The minister has been very clear about the fact that we work closely with our international partners, including our Five Eyes intelligence partners in undertaking these checks."