Gurkhas win immigration court battle
The Associated Press
Published: September 30, 2008
LONDON: A British court on Tuesday struck down immigration restrictions placed on Gurkha veterans who served in the country's armed forces, handing a significant victory to a group that has served Britain for nearly 200 years.
The High Court ordered the government to draw up a new immigration policy for the Nepalese soldiers, who demanded the repeal of regulations that bar some of them from settling in Britain.
“This court has struck that policy down as being completely unlawful, and has ordered the government to draw up a new policy as soon as possible that takes in account the long a distinguished service of these men,” attorney David Enright said.
Gurkha soldiers outside the court broke into cheers, played bagpipes and waved green flags emblazoned with two crossed kukri bent Nepalese knives the Gurkhas adopted as their standard.
Mercenaries recruited from the Himalayan hills, the Gurkhas served Britain starting in 1815, through the conflagrations of the 20th century and into the 21st, fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.
But they have struggled to secure equal treatment from British authorities.
Gurkhas were not automatically allowed to settle in Britain until after 1997. And the government argued that some who retired before 1997 had only weak links to Britain and should have their cases reviewed individually.
The Gurkhas sued, arguing their service was what mattered not where it took place.
Justice Nicholas Blake said the government restrictions were illegal and demanded they be reformulated.
Blake said soldiers had a covenant with the nation they served: In exchange for their personal sacrifice they should always expect fair treatment.
“Rewarding long and distinguished service by the grant of residence in the country for which the service was performed would, in my judgment, be a vindication and an enhancement of this covenant,” Blake said.
Enright said the judgment gave the government no choice but to remove obstacles to the Gurkha's entry.
“It has to be hugely widened, and we would expect to see a dramatic lowering of the hurdle,” Enright said.
Gurkhas said they felt vindicated.
“It's hard to say you have no strong ties to Britain when you were part of the British Army,” said 53-year-old Chandra Pakhrin, a veteran of the 10th Princess Mary's Own Gurkha Rifles. “We shouldn't have to go through this.”