Last year I wrote about the Gurkha Justice Campaign and how some Gurkhas, after spending years in the British Army, are then denied the right to live in England. I believe this is deeply wrong and a severe mis-calculation of the public’s mood by the British Government.
In a nutshell, only Gurkhas who left the British Army after 1997 had an automatic right to settle in the UK. The Gurkhas for Justice Campaign successfully took the case to the High Court who ruled that Gurkhas who left before 1997 do have a right to settle in the UK. So I was pleased then when I heard that the government was going to be issuing new guidance. I was however completely appalled by what they published:
Permission to settle in the United Kingdom may be granted if you meet one of the following:
1) You spent at least three years continuous lawful residence in the UK during or after service;
2) You have close family settled in the United Kingdom with whom you enjoy family life;
3) You received a Level 1-3 Award for gallantry, leadership or bravery for service in the Brigade;
4) You completed 20 or more years’ service in the Brigade;
5) You have a chronic/long term medical condition which is attributable to, or was aggravated by, service in the Brigade.
Let’s take these points in turn:
1) How can a Gurkha, on active duty, ever spend 3 years continuously in the UK? And how can they after service, if they don’t have the residency that they are applying for?!? It’s an impossible point to meet.
2) Most Gurkhas don’t already have family in the country, they are recruited mostly from Nepal after all. That’s the point.
3) A level 1-3 medal is an extremely high bar (level 1 is the Victoria Cross), but even if it was less, you have to take extraordinary risks to be allowed in? Is a career of duty and service not enough?
4) Only the officers are allowed 20 years service, so this immediately discounts all the enlisted men.
5) So perhaps if you lose a leg, you’ll be allowed in?
It’s a disgrace. In my mind the situation is simple, any Gurhka who gives let’s say 10 years of their life, serving this country in the armed forces, in whatever capacity that happens to be, should more than qualify them for a right to settle here. I would welcome any Gurkha as a neighbour of mine. In fact, so annoyed was I, that when there was a vote in Parliament last week, I wrote to my MP for the first time ever. Here’s the letter:
Dear Andrew Stunell,
This is just a short note to ask you to support the Gurkha Justice motion on Wednesday 19th April (I believe). I have the greatest respect for the Gurkhas, who have supported our armed forces admirably for many decades.
I feel strongly that a Gurkha who has decided to put his life at risk by serving in our armed forces, he should have a right to settle in the country he has helped defend. They are clearly not work shy fops or freeloaders out for what they can get, they are a dedicated, respectful and hard working people. Please support this motion.
Colin McNulty BEng(Hons) CEng MIET
I of course got no reply, but I did laugh when the vote was carried by 267 votes to 246, the first, first day motion defeat for a UK government for 31 years! The people have spoken Mr Brown, it’s time to listen and end this shame.