Thousands of Gurkhas to be granted British residency: report
January 29, 2009
LONDON (AFP) Up to 36,000 Gurkha soldiers and their families will be allowed to settle in Britain under a change of policy to be announced by the government, a report said Thursday.
The Times said the government will “shortly” unveil new settlement rights for Nepalese soldiers who served in the British army before 1997. The Home Office did not confirm the report, saying it was still considering the issue.
The government was forced to take action after a ruling from High Court judges in October that the government needed to review its policy on whether Gurkhas who fought for Britain before 1997 could live there.
But the newspaper said the Ministry of Defence has said that Nepal is concerned about the effect on its economy of potentially losing so many citizens and their army pensions.
The report said defence officials had warned the Home Office that if the right to live in Britain were extended to every Gurkha who has served in the British army, Nepal might scrap the 1947 agreement under which its young men have been recruited each year.
The Nepalese economy is boosted by salaries and pensions coming into the country from Gurkhas serving with the British army, which are substantially higher than incomes in Nepal.
Tens of thousands of family members depend entirely on Gurkha salaries and pensions, providing income that would otherwise be unobtainable in the largely agricultural, impoverished country.
A Home Office spokeswoman told AFP that revised immigration rules for Gurkhas were “under consideration” but that since 2004, over 6,000 former Gurkhas and family members had been granted residence in Britain under existing guidelines.
“We have always been clear that where there is a compelling case Gurkha soldiers and their families should be considered for settlement,” the spokeswoman said.
“The revised guidance is currently under consideration and will be issued as soon as possible. Once we have published the guidance all cases will be reviewed.
“We are determined to get the guidance right to ensure that it is fair to all Gurkhas.”
Around 3,400 Gurkhas are serving with the British army in countries including Iraq and Afghanistan.