Gurkhas unhappy at limits on UK citizenship

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Gurkhas who served with the British Army reacted with disappointment yesterday to the news that only limited numbers could apply for British citizenship following a campaign for recognition by members of the Nepalese army brigade.

Gurkhas who served with the British Army reacted with disappointment yesterday to the news that only limited numbers could apply for British citizenship following a campaign for recognition by members of the Nepalese army brigade.

The Prime Minister, Tony Blair announced yesterday that Gurkhas with more than four years' service would be allowed to remain in Britain once discharged and would receive citizenship after a further 12 months' residence.

Mr Blair said the Gurkhas had made an "enormous contribution" and it was important this was recognised. But this dispensation would not apply to those discharged before 1997, meaning at least 100 would have to return to Nepal.

Kishore Limbu served in the British Army's Gurkha brigade for from 1964 to 1970 before a forced redundancy but receives no military pension and has no right to settle in the UK. Like many old soldiers in Nepal he was left unmoved by yesterday's announcement.

"If I had the choice of working in the UK, I would of course take it", he said. He does not receive a British Army pension because he did not serve the minimum 15 years required to qualify for one. "I would like to work in the UK because there is more scope abroad. Here in Nepal I can't do anything because of the security situation."

Nepal has been ravaged by a Maoist insurgency since 1996, at the cost of more than 10,000 lives.

Gurkhas are the fourth largest source of foreign currency for Nepal. Serving Gurkhas send money to their families back home and invest in property when they return to Kathmandu on leave. More than 200 Nepalese soldiers are recruited each year by the British Army.

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