Thursday, 25 September 2008

Absolutely scandalous

Joanna Lumley has again shown her support for Britain's Gurkha veterans who are having to fight for the right to stay in this country. To the skirl of bagpipes playing Cock o' the North, she walked through a guard of honour of Gurkhas to the steps of the High Court in an expression of her support for two British Gurkha Victorian Cross holders whose court battle is being seen as a test case for their other comrades.
Joanna the Avenger told the large contingent of soldiers who had set up outside court that she wanted to see justice done. "My own father served with the Gurkhas for 30 years. Like so many people in Britain, I am ashamed at how successive governments have failed these magnificent and loyal soldiers".
The court challenge, on behalf of about 2000 British Army Gurkhas, stems from a fight to remain in the country in retirement. Soldiers who retired from the British Army after 1997, when their base was moved from Hong Kong to Kent, can automatically stay in the UK but those who retired earlier - including 13 VC holders - must fight individual cases for the right to stay, and could be refused and even deported. All other foreign soldiers in the British Army have a right to settle in Britain after four years' service anywhere in the world. Part of the Government's explanation for refusing settlement rights is that some Gurkhas "lack strong ties with the country".
As part of their campaign for the right to settle in Britain, over 50 retired British Gurkha soldiers and their families also staged a demonstration outside the Labour Party's conference in Manchester on Tuesday. Carrying placards and banners emblazoned with slogans they sought the help and support for their campaign from conference delegates .

Around 200,000 Nepali Gurkhas fought for Britain in World Wars I and II, and about 3,500 currently serve in the British army. More than 45,000 have been killed serving Britain over the years. It is disgraceful that these veterans are now having to fight in the courts for permission to stay in the country which they served so heroically and for which many of their comrades have given their lives.