Gurkhas Are British
84 year-old Tul Bahadur Pun is a former Gurkha soldier who earned the Victoria Cross fighting for Britain in Burma in June, 1944. But until 30th September, 2008 the British Government denied Gurkhas who retired from the Army before 1997 an automatic right to live in the UK. Only those retiring after July of that year, when the Gurkhas' base was moved from Hong Kong to England, could automatically stay. The rest had to apply individually for permission and were refused residence if they failed to demonstrate "strong ties" to Britain.
The origins of the Gurkhas' association with the British have their roots deep in the past, and they actually fought against each other in the Anglo-Nepalese War of 1814-1816. But for almost two hundred years, first in the British East India Company army, then in the British Indian Army, and then (after Indian Independence) in the British Army Brigade of Gurkhas, they have remained faithful friends in times of need.
Tul Bahadur Pun was in fact allowed to settle in the UK in 2007, but only after a public campaign in his support when he'd been refused a settlement visa by the Home Office who told him: "You have failed to demonstrate that you have strong ties with the UK," and argued that he had "not produced satisfactory evidence" that he had a "chronic or long-term medical condition."
Court case: ex-Gurkhas can stay in Britain
This September a test case taken by a group of retired Gurkhas to the High Court for judicial review resulted in a ruling by a judge, Mr Justice Blake, that instructions given by the Home Office to immigration officials were unlawful and needed urgent revision and that the Gurkhas' long service and loyalty to the Crown all pointed to an "unquestionable moral debt of honour."
Judging by the public reaction to the case, most people who have an opinion on the matter take the view that "Gurkhas are British" (if they want to be) because they've been an inherent part of the British Army since the days of the Empire and have a longstanding reputation for professionalism, outstanding bravery, and loyalty to 'the cause', 'the Queen', etc. Most of us would be honoured to have a Gurkha family living next door. Following the High Court's decision their solicitor said: "This is a victory that restores honour and dignity to deserving soldiers who faithfully served in Her Majesty's armed forces. It is a victory for common sense, a victory for fairness and a victory for the British sense of what is right."
This is certainly my view. And now, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith says that the Home Office will revise its guidance on the 1997 cut-off date. "We will honour our commitment to the Gurkhas by reviewing all cases by the end of the year," she now says. But this is just more of the usual rubbish we've come to expect from this lying Government. What 'commitment' is this woman referring to? If the commitment had been there, the High Court ruling wouldn't have been necessary in the first place. And the Government didn't apologize but tried to give the deceitful impression it agreed with the Gurkhas all along. Plus, justice still depends on the outcome of the reviews.
The five ex-Gurkhas in the test case represented approximately 2,000 others who retired from the British Army before mid-1997 and were refused entry to the UK by British Entry Clearance officers at the British Embassy in Kathmandu and the British High Commissions in Hong Kong and Macau. Of course the right to settle in the UK doesn't neccesarily make an ex-Gurkha British, but they can become British if they want to, and they should be made welcome either way – even if they are proud to be Nepalese.
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