Page last updated at 14:30 GMT, Tuesday, 15 April 2008 15:30 UK

Gurkhas protest at right to stay

Gurkha protesting in March
Gurkhas fought for the UK in the two World Wars, the Falklands and Iraq

Ex-Gurkha soldiers have demonstrated outside a landmark immigration tribunal which could determine whether thousands of veterans can settle in the UK.

The test case will decide whether the government acted legally when it refused settlement to 14 Gurkhas.

Last month veterans protested outside parliament over immigration rules which state those who retired before 1997 cannot automatically stay.

The case, which may affect 2,000 Gurkhas, was adjourned until 21 July.

About 15 Gurkhas gathered outside the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in central London, to protest ahead of the hearing.

'Moral stain'

It was due to determine whether the British Government's Entry Clearance Officers in Kathmandu, Hong Kong and Macau acted lawfully by refusing right of settlement.

Serving Gurkhas are almost automatically entitled to live in the UK after completing their Army service, but those who retired before 1997 must apply.

The lead case in the action is being brought on behalf of injured Falklands veteran Lance Corporal Gyanendra Rai.

Gordon Brown can cleanse the stain of injustice at the stroke of a pen and thereby repay the debt of gratitude owed to these men
Martin Howe

Martin Howe, who is representing L/Cpl Rai and several other appellants, said: "The ignominy of forcing these veterans to beg for the right to live in the UK is a stain on the moral integrity of our nation.

"Gordon Brown can cleanse the stain of injustice at the stroke of a pen and thereby repay the debt of gratitude owed to these men. They deserve nothing less."

The Home Office said it tried to be fair in its treatment of the veterans.

A spokesman said under immigration rules, the right of settlement is linked to an extended period living in the UK or close family ties.

He said Gurkhas discharged before 1 July 1997 were unlikely to have strong residential ties as they were based in Hong Kong.

He added: "Whenever there are strong reasons why settlement in the UK is appropriate any Gurkha can apply for settlement on a discretionary basis no matter when they were discharged."

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