Finally, Gurkha veterans get British residency rights

May 21st, 2009 - 7:47 pm ICT by IANS  

London, May 21 (IANS) All former Gurkhas who have served in the British Army for at least four years will now be eligible to settle in Britain, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said Thursday.
In what amounted to a swift policy U-turn, Smith said Gurkhas who retired before July 1, 1997 and completed four years of service can settle in Britain with their spouses and dependent children.

Those who retired after July 1, 1997 are already eligible to apply for settlement under current immigration rules.

“Generations of Gurkhas have served the United Kingdom with great courage, sacrifice and distinction and they continue to make a vital and valued contribution to our operations around the world,” Smith told parliament.

The ruling Labour suffered a humiliating defeat in the parliament earlier this month when MPs from all major political parties voted to defeat government proposals to curtail the rights of Gurkha veterans to live in Britain.

The climbdown comes after the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, Keith Vaz, wrote to Brown Tuesday night following a private meeting with the Gurkha campaign group, including actress Joanna Lumley, and government officials.

Vaz accused the government of “overblowing” estimates that up to 100,000 former Gurkhas and families would come to Britain if rights were granted to all.

Officials admitted at the most it would only be 84,000 while campaigners put the figure at between 10,000 and 35,000, the letter said.

“We believe that Britain has a moral debt of honour to the Brigade of Gurkhas and that this can be realised along the lines suggested here,” Vaz said.

The Home Office said Thursday the new policy reflects “the fresh advice of the Home Affairs Select Committee around the numbers of Gurkhas and their families likely to apply under the new rules.”

Kevan Jones, Minister for Veterans said: “The British Army and the Ministry of Defence are determined to do all that we can to uphold our ongoing commitment to the welfare of former Gurkhas, whether in Nepal or the UK. We value greatly the bravery, commitment and dedication which they have shown over many years and continue to demonstrate on operations today.”

Upto 50,000 Gurkhas are said to have been killed in action fighting for Britain over the last 200 years.

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