Supporters of retired Nepalese Gurkha soldiers are celebrating a U-turn by the British government over their right to settle in the UK. The policy reversal could cover up to 15,000 veterans who have fought for Britain.
The government backed down after pressure from campaigners including the actress Joanna Lumley, whose father served with the Gurkhas. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith told parliament: “I’m delighted that we have now been able to agree – across government, across the house, and with the Ghurkas’ representatives – new settlement rights that all those who have served us so well so highly deserve.” Gurkhas who retired before 1997, with more than four years’ service, will now be eligible to apply to live in Britain. On hearing the news, Joanna Lumley said: “This is a fantastic day. My brothers and sisters. Hooray. My family. Hip hip, hooray!” She went on to say: “I want to thank parliament for making democracy mean something. I want to pay a special tribute to Gordon Brown, the Prime Minister, a brave man who has today made a brave decision.” However, this is the latest in a series of setbacks for Brown, who suffered a parliamentary defeat on the Gurkhas issue last month. The Nepalese soldiers have been fighting for Britain since 1815. The first Gurkhas to be given the right to settle in Britain were those who served on or after July 1, 1997, when their base moved to Britain from Hong Kong.