Fears over influx of right-to-settle Gurkhas

Military charities voiced concern today over their ability to cope with the numbers of former Gurkhas coming to them for help.

One predicted that up to 12,000 Gurkhas could apply for UK residency over the next three years after winning the right to settle here last year, with fears that many will need accommodation and basic equipment on arrival.

Paul Cummings, from the Army Benevolent Fund, said a dozen families had already approached his charity during the two weeks before Christmas.

Of the others expected, he told the BBC: "They will arrive from an aircraft, they'll probably have two suitcases and no more. They're going to need everything to set up home."

Mr Cummings added that although the Ministry of Defence had set up a resettlement office in the Nepalese capital Kathmandu to help brief applicants about life in Britain, none of the people he had seen had been there.

He said: "Having not been through any preparation in Nepal prior to arrival, they're coming here with no resources to back them up and no means of sustaining themselves.

"It is an issue of grave concern."

The charity has estimated that new arrivals will need about £2,000 per household to set themselves up with some accommodation and basic furniture.

Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of Veterans Aid which deals with homeless former service personnel, said charities were "coping well" with the Gurkhas.

But he warned: "This has the potential to be overwhelming and that is very worrying."

The MoD said that more than 2,000 people had attended its settlement office in Nepal since it opened three months ago.

It told the BBC: "By working closely with other government departments, we have also put fast-tracking arrangements in place to ensure that ex-Gurkhas arriving in the UK receive all the support and benefits that the welfare system offers."