Former Gurkhas to be given UK citizenship

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Indy Politics

The Gurkhas have won a long battle for the right to British citizenship, Tony Blair will announce today.

The decision to permit the soldiers to settle in the UK after the completion of their service - provided they served for more than four years - was the result of an 18-month review by the Home Office and Foreign Office. It comes after a long campaign by the Nepalese soldiers to obtain British citizenship and will result in an estimated 230 Gurkhas and 800 dependents settling in the UK each year.

The Prime Minister said: "The Gurkhas have served this country with great skill, courage and dignity during some of the most testing times in our history. They have made an enormous contribution not just to our armed forces but to the life of this country, and it is important their commitment and sacrifice is recognised."

But the announcement was not welcomed by all in the Gurkha regiment. The new provision will apply only to those who were discharged from the forces after 1 July 1997. As a result, about 100 of the estimated 400 Gurkhas currently residing in the UK will not be eligible.

Major Tikendradal Dewan, chairman of the Brigade of Gurkhas Welfare Society, said: "This is extremely good news in a way, but it is not a 100 per cent celebration because of the cut-off date. It's difficult to rejoice at the news when we know that something like a quarter of the guys will not benefit from it. What will happen to them? Will they be deported?"

A new Armed Forces Entry Clearance procedure for former Gurkhas will be incorporated into the immigration laws within the next few weeks.