Gurkha campaigners signal victory over British Govt | world | Hindustan Times
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Gurkha campaigners signal victory over British Govt

Campaigners for Gurkha veterans voiced confidence that they had succeeded in forcing the British government into a policy U-turn to allow the former soldiers to settle in Britain.

world Updated: May 21, 2009 14:40 IST

Campaigners for Gurkha veterans voiced confidence on Thursday that they had succeeded in forcing the British government into a policy U-turn to allow the former soldiers to settle in Britain.

Actress Joanna Lumley, who has championed their cause, said it "could not be a better day" after meeting with Prime Minister Gordon Brown ahead of an announcement in the House of Commons later in the day.

A grinning Lumley said she felt "outstandingly optimistic", but insisted she could reveal no more details before Home Secretary Jacqui Smith makes the official announcement.

Lumley passionately campaigned on the issue because her father served with the Nepalese soldiers in the British army.

Sources close to Brown have indicated all retired Gurkhas will now be given the right to live in Britain.

Campaigners were furious that thousands of Gurkhas who left the British army before 1997 were refused settlement rights.

Brown hinted at the change in policy when he told the House of Commons on Wednesday he had a "great deal of sympathy and support" for the Gurkhas.

He said: "I believe it is possible for us to honour our commitments to the Gurkhas and to do so in a way that protects the public finances."

The government was forced to change its stance after it suffered a defeat on the issue in a Commons vote last month.

Afterwards, Brown agreed to meet Lumley, who also ambushed Immigration Minister Phil Woolas amid extraordinary scenes in a TV studio after several veterans were told their residency applications had been rejected.

Under the existing rules, Britain would only give residency rights to 4,300 ex-Gurkhas, falling short of demands that they be granted to all 36,000 Nepalese ex-soldiers who served with the British army before 1997.

About 200,000 Gurkhas fought for Britain in World Wars I and II and more than 45,000 died in British uniform. Around 3,500 Gurkhas currently serve in the British army, including in Afghanistan.