Gurkha dies waiting for right to live in Britain

July 18th, 2008 - 1:34 pm ICT by IANS  

London, July 18 (IANS) Blood pressure finally accounted for a Gurkha ex-corporal as he waited for years to get permission to live indefinitely in Britain, whose army he served for 15 years. Retired corporal Purna Gurung, 55, died of high blood pressure at his friend’s home in Hampshire, with friends and family saying he was suffering from extreme stress because of his situation.

He was unable to work or claim benefits for want of the permission to live in the country, having to make do with a dole of around 100 pounds ($200) a month.

His wife, equally stressed, is learnt to have left her house in Nottingham after her husband’s death.

In fact her illness in April really took a toll on Gurung. The NHS asked him to pay thousands of pounds in costs for the treatment of his wife who went into a diabetes-led coma.

To his surprise, an anonymous benefactor came forward to foot the bill, but the uproar the case created forced the NHS to pay for her treatment.

Laxmi Prasad Sharma, 51, a friend of the couple and acting secretary of the United British Gurkhas Ex-Servicemen’s Association, blames the government for Purna’s death.

“We have served this country for almost 200 years. Anybody in this country can get benefits. We are not asking for benefits. We love this country and we love its people and we just want to settle here and contribute to this country again. Even criminals are given a fair chance, why not us? What have we done wrong to this country?”

Under current rules Gurkhas who retired before 1997 like Gurung have to show they have strong ties to Britain. Now those who retire with a minimum of four years’ service have permission to live in Britain providing they apply within two years of leaving the army.

There are some 400 Gurkhas who are waiting to hear whether they will be granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain.

Peter Carroll, a Liberal Democrat councillor from Folkestone, Kent, where many Gurkhas have settled near their old base, had supported the Gurungs, who arrived in Britain from Nepal last year.

“Purna has died of very high blood pressure. He was not allowed to work and he had faced the trauma of a very high medical bill for his wife. It’s yet another example of the misery that is inflicted on the retired Gurkhas.”

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