Page last updated at 13:47 GMT, Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Gurkhas decision delay criticised

Joanna Lumley beside a retired Gurkha
The Gurkhas - backed by Joanna Lumley - won their case in September

The government has been criticised for delays in producing a new policy on Gurkha veterans wanting to settle in the UK.

The High Court had ruled immigration rules that excluded from the UK Gurkhas who retired before 1997, was unlawful.

The government was to review all cases by the end of 2008 but it has asked a tribunal for a further three months.

A solicitor for the Gurkhas said he would ask the tribunal to enforce the ruling unless ministers took action.

David Enright said a new policy had been promised before Christmas but the government "did not know" when it would be published.

He said he would be going back to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in 21 days to ask it to enforce the original ruling.

Mr Enright said there were more than 300 veterans in the UK waiting for their cases to be decided.

Some, he said, were living 10 to a room, unable to work or claim benefits.

Hong Kong move

The government said it needed the extra time to produce the new proposals and review more than 1,300 appeals.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The revised guidance is currently under consideration and will be issued as soon as possible. Once we have published the guidance all cases will be reviewed

"We are determined to get the guidance right to ensure that it is fair to all Gurkhas. This has involved consultation across government."

It added that more than 6,000 former Gurkhas and family members had been granted settlement in the UK under immigration rules since 2004.

The retired Gurkhas affected won their immigration test case at London's High Court last September.

They were challenging a policy that said that those who retired from the British Army before 1997 did not have an automatic right to stay.

Prominent supporter actress Joanna Lumley - whose father served with the Gurkhas - said it was a "chance to right a great wrong".

Following the ruling the government said it would review all Gurkhas' cases by the end of 2008.

The regiment moved its main base from Hong Kong to the UK in 1997 and the government had argued that Gurkhas discharged before that date were unlikely to have strong residential ties with the UK.

Gurkhas have been part of the British Army for almost 200 years and are hand picked from a fiercely-contested recruitment contest in Nepal to win the right to join.

They have seen combat all over the world, with 200,000 fighting in the two world wars.

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