We store cookies on your device to make sure we give you the best experience on this website. I'm fine with this - Turn cookies off
Switch to an accessible version of this website which is easier to read. (requires cookies)

Gurkha campaigners hit back at MOD scaremongering

January 15, 2009 9:39 AM
Peter Carroll, Joanna Lumley, Dhan Gurung and Shepway and Canterbury Gurkha rights campaigners.

Joanna Lumley, Martin Howe & Peter Carroll with other Gurkha rights campaigners at the High Court in September 2008

The organizers of the Gurkha Justice campaign team have hit out at recent press stories that their campaign to get retired Gurkhas the right to settle in the UK will result in Gurkhas becoming too expensive and that they will be scrapped. The campaign is spearheaded by the actress Joanna Lumley and achieved a major victory in the High Court in September last year when Justice Blake ruled that the Government policy of excluding Gurkhas from living in the UK who retired before 1997 was 'unlawful'.

Joanna Lumley said:

"These stories that say letting retired Gurkhas live in the UK will cost Billions of pounds and be a drain on services like the NHS are simply MOD scaremongering. The numbers of retired Gurkhas that are likely to come to the UK are small when compared to immigration into this country. The MOD are making wildly exaggerated claims that as many as 50,000 may come.

"The Home Affairs Select Committee took evidence on this matter last year and evidence showed the figure is more likely to be between 3,500 and 5,000. Let's face it, even in the unlikely event that the MODs figure was correct, all these retired Gurkhas have earned the right to settle here by serving and fighting in our Army. The idea that they will be a 'drain' on the NHS is offensive - these people were prepared to fight and die for the NHS. Many of them actually had money deducted from their pay to help pay for it. They have as much right as any British citizen to use it".

Solicitor Martin Howe, who lead the successful High Court action last September, said:

"This is a critical time for all retired Gurkhas. As a result of our win in the High Court the Prime Minister and the Government are at this very moment drawing up a new policy on the Gurkhas. It seems that certain parts of the MOD are trying to put pressure on the Prime Minister and other decision makers not to let the Gurkhas settle here by quoting vastly exaggerated costs many of which relate to pensions.

"In his High Court judgment, Justice Blake specifically said his ruling related to the right to live in the UK and that pensions were a separate issue. The MOD cynically continue to exaggerate and embellish the likely numbers of Gurkhas who wish to settle in the UK. In February 2008 the Home Office, in reply to a Freedom of Information Act request, told us that approximately 1500 veterans had applied to settle here. In a letter to the Court in December 2008 the Director of Visa Services stated that there are 'approximately 1350 appeals currently stayed'.

"We must remember that Gurkhas had been told that unless they made their settlement applications by October 2006 they would be prevented from settling in the UK. The true number of Gurkhas who may come here is a mere fraction of the inflated numbers being bandied about by the MOD. The real number including family members is likely to be about 3 - 5,000 and at most 10,000. The maximum number of 10,000 was a figure accepted by the Home Affairs Committee when it took evidence on Gurkha settlement in November 2008".

Peter Carroll, who helped set up the campaign in 2004, said:

"The British people continue to make it clear in petition after petition, demonstration after demonstration that they want the Gurkhas to have the right to live here. Let's remember that every one of the people we are talking about was prepared to die for this country.

"Some of the MOD comment on this matter is blatant scaremongering. They say that the Gurkhas will be a cost. In reality, many of the retired Gurkhas will work here and contribute to the economy. I hope that the Prime Minister sees through to the heart of this issue and allows the Gurkhas to come."