Gurkhas need strong ties to stay in UK, court told
September 18, 2008
Nepalese Gurkhas who fought with the British army but retired before their regimental headquarters moved to the UK from Hong Kong in 1997, do not have strong ties to the country and have no right to settle in it, a Home Office lawyer told a judge in the high court yesterday.
Five Gurkha veterans who have been refused settlement visas on the grounds that they have no strong ties to the UK, challenged the decision in court in a test case that could have implications for more than 2,000 of their fellow former soldiers.
Steven Kovats, for the Home Office, said Gurkhas discharged after 1997 were treated differently because the move of their base to the UK enabled them to form closer ties with the country. When the current immigration policy was introduced in 2004, the Gurkhas discharged before 1997 had been absent from the UK for more than seven years. Those who retired after 1997 and with four years service have the right to stay in the UK.
The judge, Mr Justice Blake, asked whether a Gurkha who had won a Victoria Cross but had no strong ties with the country would still be eligible to settle in the UK. “Having a VC is not necessarily a strong tie bringing the entry application within the policy,” replied Kovats.
Kovats said under immigration rules, two years' absence from the UK precluded anyone granted indefinite leave to remain from having it routinely renewed on return. The Gurkhas' legal team says they have been racially discriminated against because other foreign soldiers who have served four years are allowed to live in the UK after their service. Kovats rejected this saying government policy did not discriminate between the two groups.
He went on: “The claimants in effect assert that Crown service is itself a sufficient tie with the UK. But this has never been British immigration policy.”
The judge reserved his ruling until a later date.