The UK Border Agency has finally agreed to give all former Gurkhas “who have served in the British Army for at least four years” the right of settlement in the UK, the Home Secretary announced in Parliament today.
Under the new policy, Gurkhas who retired before 1 July 1997 and completed four years’ service can apply to settle in the United Kingdom with their spouses and dependent children.
The new policy refers specifically to those Gurkhas who retired before 1 July 1997, and who will now be granted settlement rights under the new scheme. Those who retired after 1 July 1997 are already eligible to apply for settlement under the current immigration rules.
Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said:
‘Generations of Gurkhas have served the United Kingdom with great courage, sacrifice and distinction, and they continue to make a vital and valued contribution to our operations around the world.
‘We respect the will of the House of Commons on this issue, and that is why I have now announced a new policy, the basis of which we have worked on with the Home Affairs Select Committee and Gurkha representatives.
‘This means we can now welcome any Gurkha who has served for four years or more to settle in the United Kingdom.’
In 2004 the current Labour Government granted the first Gurkhas the right of settlement in Britain if they served on or after 1 July 1997 – the point at which the Brigade’s base moved to the United Kingdom. Since then, over 6,000 Gurkhas and their families have been given the right to live in the United Kingdom.
The new policy announced will allow settlement rights to be granted to all those who retired from the Brigade of Gurkhas prior to 1 July 1997 with four or more years’ service. The new policy reflects the fresh advice of the Home Affairs Select Committee around the number of Gurkhas and their families who are likely to apply under the new rules.
The British Army’s Brigade of Gurkhas is currently around 3,800 strong. It provides around three per cent of the Army’s strength and eight per cent of the Infantry.
Kevan Jones, Minister for Veterans, said:
‘The British Army and the Ministry of Defence are determined to do all that we can to uphold our ongoing commitment to the welfare of former Gurkhas, whether in Nepal or the United Kingdom. We value greatly the bravery, commitment and dedication which they have shown over many years and continue to demonstrate on operations today.’
The news was will be a relief to Gurkhas and campaigners such as Joanna Lumley who have fought a long battle through the courts to win this concession.
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