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Last Updated: Saturday, 2 June 2007, 21:39 GMT 22:39 UK
Gurkha tells of citizenship joy
Tul Bahadur Pun
Mr Pun said he would campaign for better rights for Gurkhas
A former Gurkha who won the Victoria Cross has told of his joy at being given the right to live in the UK.

Tul Bahadur Pun, 84, who wanted to move from Nepal for medical reasons, promised to be a "credit" to Britain and expressed "deep gratitude".

He was initially told he did not have enough British ties to move but was eventually granted a visa because his case was "exceptional".

Former Rifleman Mr Pun was awarded his medal for World War II action in Burma.

After the rest of his section, the 3rd Battalion, 6th Gurkha Rifles, had been killed, he carried out a solo attack on a machinegun post.

Actress Joanna Lumley backed Mr Pun's campaign to live in the UK because she said he risked his life to rescue her father.

Mr Pun was informed of the Home Office decision at his current home in Pokhara, Nepal, on Friday.

I am overjoyed to learn that I have finally been allowed the right to settle and live in the UK
Tul Bahadur Pun

He said: "I would like to express my deep gratitude to the British people for granting me the privilege to come and live amongst them in a country which I have fought for and love.

"I am overjoyed to learn that I have finally been allowed the right to settle and live in the UK.

"I could not sleep last night, as I was so happy with the news that Great Britain would be allowing me to come and get the medical treatment which is so lacking for many veteran Gurkhas in Nepal."

He added: "I will never forget the 45,000 Gurkhas killed in battle fighting alongside our British friends, nor will I ever forget my British brothers and sisters who have laid-down their lives fighting alongside the Brigade of Gurkhas in numerous theatres of war over the last 200 years.

"In life it is the greatest honour to be a Gurkha, because it is the greatest honour to serve the British people and our Brigade."

'Plight'

He said he wanted to help his fellow VC winners living in poverty in Nepal.

Mr Pun said he wanted Britain to "look at the plight of veteran Gurkhas, and the injustices they continue to face when asking for their rights to come to Britain and the continuing injustice of unequal pensions".

Gurkhas now get the same pensions as British soldiers, but only those retiring after July 1997.

Gurkhas who retired before this date receive just a sixth of the average army pension.

Mr Pun receives a 130-a-month army pension, which he must collect in person from the Gurkha army camp at Pokhara - a three-hour drive away from his home.

This decision was not taken lightly and reflects the extraordinary nature of this case, in particular Mr Pun's heroic record in service of Britain which saw him awarded the Victoria Cross
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne

Mr Pun has diabetes, high blood pressure, heart problems and asthma. His eyesight and hearing are poor.

He was initially denied a settlement visa by the Home Office, which said: "You have failed to demonstrate that you have strong ties with the UK."

But on Friday the Home Office said Mr Pun would be allowed to live in the UK, with Immigration Minister Liam Byrne saying he deserved to be honoured for his services to Britain.

Mr Byrne said: "This decision was not taken lightly and reflects the extraordinary nature of this case, in particular Mr Pun's heroic record in service of Britain which saw him awarded the Victoria Cross."

More than 12,000 people signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling on the prime minister "to immediately and retrospectively give all Gurkha servicemen and their immediate families past and present British citizenship".


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Tul Bahadur Pun explains why he wants to live in the UK



SEE ALSO
Straw defends Gurkha help offer
06 Jan 05 |  UK Politics
Gurkhas' UK citizen bid reviewed
01 Sep 04 |  Merseyside

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