Posted by: Lister | April 24, 2009

Gurkhas and immigration

Joanna Lumley is one of those angry that Gurkha veterans have not been given an automatic right to settle in Britain.

The Guardian:

There are 26,500 ex-Gurkhas receiving a Ministry of Defence pension in Nepal, and until 2004 they were not allowed to settle in the UK. The ban was lifted for Gurkhas who retired after July 1997, when the brigade HQ left Hong Kong, but soldiers who retired earlier were only given the right to stay in Britain in very exceptional circumstances.

Today, in response to the high court judgment last year that effectively branded the treatment of the older Gurkhas as unlawful, the Home Office issued new guidance on how applications from soldiers who retired before 1997 should be treated. There will be no automatic right to settle in the UK, but Gurkhas who meet certain conditions – such as having a bravery award, or an illness caused by combat – will qualify.

The announcement infuriated the Gurkhas, of whom 1,350 have applied unsuccessfully for settlement. Martin Howe, a solicitor representing many of them, said that fewer than 100 Gurkhas – mainly officers – would qualify under the new rules. “This is nothing less than an act of treachery,” he said.

The rules are explained at the BBC:

Gurkhas and their families will be allowed to stay in the UK if they meet at least one of five requirements. These are three years of continuous residence in the UK, close family in the country, 20 or more years of service, a level one to three bravery award, and a serious medical condition caused or aggravated by service.

Alternatively, veterans can gain residency if they meet at least two of an additional set of three criteria. These are having been awarded an MoD disability pension but no longer having a chronic condition, having been mentioned in dispatches, and 10 years’ service or a campaign medal.

[…] The Home Office said that as a result of the decision, a total of 4,300 Ghurkas who served prior to 1997 would be eligible for residency.

A spokesman added there were currently 1,300 applications outstanding, 300 of which would now be granted.

Some comments quoted at the BBC:

David Enwright, a solicitor representing the Gurkhas, said: “This government, Mr Woolas, should hang their head in shame so low that their forehead should touch their boots.

[…] Dhan Gurung, the first ex-Gurkha to be elected as a councillor in the UK, said the announcement was “insulting to loyal Gurkhas”. He added: “If they want Gurkha soldiers, they should treat them equally.”

[…] Ms Lumley, whose father served with the Gurkhas, said most Gurkhas would not have been allowed to stay in the UK for three years or have gained a bravery award.

She added that only officers would have achieved 20 years of service, and that it would be near-impossible for troops who served in the 1950s and 1960s to prove that their medical conditions were caused by their time in the forces.

From Timesonline:

David Enright, a solicitor acting on behalf of the Gurkhas, said: “They have set criteria that are unattainable. They require a Gurkha to serve for 20 years – but a rifleman is only permitted to serve for 15 years.

[…] Rules introduced in 2004 allowed serving Gurkhas with at least four years’ service to settle in the UK but they did not apply to Gurkhas discharged from the British Army before July 1, 1997.

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Responses

  1. The government has lost a vote on this issue. BBC:

    MPs voted by 267 to 246 for a Lib Dem motion offering all Gurkhas equal right of residence, with the Tories and 27 Labour rebels backing it.

    Some comments on the vote. Joanna Lumley:

    Just before this vote was taken our spirits were nearly at zero. When it came through we saw it on the screen and I can’t tell you the sense of elation, the sense of pride – pride in our country, pride in the democratic system and pride in our Parliament…

    We want the policy changed as swiftly as possible. What is not widely known is that there are Gurkhas living here who’ve made applications, who are not allowed to work, not allowed to have social security or to go to the NHS, who are living in fact in limbo, and in great hardship and poverty, and sometimes in great illness.

    Good result.
    The vote isn’t binding, but it does put pressure on the government.

  2. Gurkhas win right to settle in UK:

    All Gurkha veterans who retired before 1997 with at least four years’ service will be allowed to settle in the UK, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has said.

    Ms Smith told MPs she was “proud to offer this country’s welcome to all who have served in the brigade of Gurkhas”.

    […] Some 36,000 Gurkhas who left before 1997 had been denied UK residency.


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