Page last updated at 12:18 GMT, Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Gurkhas demand government action

Joanna Lumley an former Gurkhas Tul Bahador Pun and Lachhiman Gurung
The government asked for extra time to produce new immigration guidance

Former Gurkha soldiers who are fighting for the right to settle in the UK are seeking a High Court injunction to force the government to take action.

Last September, the court ruled that immigration rules denying Gurkhas who retired before 1997 an automatic right to stay in the UK were unlawful.

Campaigners complain the cases of more than 1,300 Gurkhas wanting to settle in Britain are still awaiting reviews.

The Home Office has said it is preparing guidance for the reviews.

Campaigner Joanna Lumley, the actress, said: "The way that successive governments have treated Gurkhas who retired before 1997 is truly offensive and a stain on our national character.

"These are men who have served in the British Army, sometimes for 20 years and more.

"Many have actually seen active service and some have won our country's highest honours for valour and service, yet the government claims they 'do not have a strong enough link to the UK' to have the right to live here with us in the land they have defended with such loyalty."

Ms Lumley's father fought with the Gurkhas in World War II.

"We want the High Court to say that the new policy must be applied forthwith, immediately," she said.

Embarrassment

Martin Howe, solicitor for the Gurkhas, said: "I hope the government will be embarrassed by the fact that we are trying to get compliance with an order that has already been made.

"We want a quick hearing - within a few days - so that lawyers for the secretary of state will have to come into court to explain why she has not complied."

A Home Office spokesman 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."

Prior to last year's ruling, the government position was that Gurkhas discharged before 1997, when the regiment moved its main base from Hong Kong to the UK, were unlikely to have strong residential ties with the UK.

That meant those who wanted to settle in the UK had to apply for British residence and could be refused and deported.

The Home Office spokesman added that more than 6,000 former Gurkhas and family members had been granted settlement in the UK since 2004.

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

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

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