October 01, 2004

Ghurkas: An Update

I saw this misleading little blurb, buried in the middle of the NY Times this morning and wanted to highlight it:

BRITAIN: GURKHAS GAIN CITIZENSHIP Gurkhas, who have served with the British Army for nearly 200 years, won a court battle to settle in Britain and become citizens. The soldiers, recruited in Nepal, are continuing to demand equality in pay and conditions with their British Army counterparts. The right to settle in Britain is restricted to those who left the army after July 1, 1997, when the Gurkhas were rebased from Hong Kong to Britain. The Home Office estimates 230 soldiers and about 800 dependants will settle in Britain each year. Gurkhas have served in the army since 1815 when a peace agreement was reached by the British East India Company after it suffered heavy casualties during an invasion of Nepal. From a peak of 112,000 in World War II, their numbers have dwindled to about 3,400.

Why is it misleading? Because the Ghurkas who served in Hong Kong, while they may be permitted to settle in Great Britain, are excluded from citizenship (link has lots of pop ups so I reproduce relevant bits below).

Former Nepalese-born Gurkha soldiers who helped defend Hong Kong under British rule are fuming at London's decision to exclude them from a new law giving the crack fighters British citizenship, a spokesman said Thursday. British Prime Minister Tony Blair said Thursday that serving and retired fighters of the army's famous Ghurka Brigade would be allowed to settle in Britain.

But the law applies only to those demobilised after July 1, 1997, the day Britain disbanded its Hong Kong regiment and returned the city to Chinese control.

"The law has been stacked against Hong Kong's Gurkhas, they have been deliberately left out," said Hem Thapa, an agent at Gurkha International, an employment agency that finds work for former Gurkhas who still live here.

"Those who went back to Nepal will definitely be making some noise about this -- many were definitely counting on Britain offering them citizenship."

Why can't the Brits treat these men properly?

UPDATE: Predictably, and I should have looked before posting the above, Simon has a great post on this subject.

Posted by Random Penseur at October 1, 2004 07:28 AM

It is an absolute disgrace and just makes Great Britain look not so Great.

Posted by: Simon at October 3, 2004 11:46 AM

It is anabsoultley unfair.

Posted by: Gyan Rai at January 31, 2005 01:57 AM

These great soldiers are more British than the British. I served with the 48 Ghurka Infantry Brigade (56 Field Sqn Royal Engineers) in Hong Kong in the 50's and am in agreement that these fine soldiers should be given British Citizenship.

Posted by: Bill Purcell at November 8, 2005 03:31 PM
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