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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 March 2008, 19:34 GMT
'Refusal is a slap in the face'
By Angus Crawford
BBC News

A soldier from the Commonwealth who served more than four years in the British Army, including two tours in Iraq, has been told he can't become a British citizen because he applied on the wrong date.

Rogers Jean-Baptiste's pictures of his time in service
Rogers Jean-Baptiste served two tours in Iraq
Rogers Jean-Baptiste was born in St Lucia. He made his application this January, but was told by the Home Office that because on the same date five years earlier he was outside the UK he didn't qualify.

At that time he was actually serving on a British base in Germany.

"The adventure, the thrill...I looked forward to wearing my uniform, wearing it with pride," he said.

Rogers Jean-Baptiste knew exactly why he wanted to join the British army.

He has trophies for athletics and orienteering in his small room. "Exemplary" is the single word written on his discharge certificate.

'Gob smacked'

He joined the British army in 2002 and the following year was sent abroad. He completed a tour of Iraq and then volunteered to go back again.

He said: "The highlight of the tour....on election day in Basra city. Mortars were raining down...we had trained for it day in and day out.

"When you get out there you just do the job."

He became a Lance Corporal, left the service in 2006 and became a police community support officer. Recently he was injured trying to detain a suspected robber.

On 17 January this year thinking he met relevant criteria, he applied to become a British citizen. He was turned down.

Rogers Jean-Baptiste
Rogers Jean-Baptiste is now a police community support officer

"I felt insulted. I felt humiliated, I was gob smacked," he said.

The Home Office said to qualify he had to have been present in the UK on the same date five years earlier.

On 17 January 2003, he'd been in the army for more than six months, but on the same day he was posted to Germany.

He was in British uniform but not on British soil.

Mr Jean Baptiste says he feels betrayed by the government.

"If I had died in battle. The politicians would have told my family, "he was a hero".

"But here I am, I'm alive, I'm trying to help myself and I'm being turned down. That is blatant hypocrisy."

Exercise discretion

The Home Office disagrees.

It points out that he does have indefinite leave to remain, so can live and work here until he's able to apply again in 2011.

An official said "We do exercise discretion for members of the armed forces who have spent time outside the UK.

"But the law remains that applicants need to have been in the country at the beginning of their qualifying period for citizenship."

But Mr Jean Baptiste says without a British passport he can't travel freely outside the UK.

More than this the refusal is, in his words, "a slap in the face".

"It's a waste of my time and of everything I fought for," he says. "It's a betrayal".

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