LONDON (Reuters) - Former Gurkha soldiers cheered and waved their regiment’s flag outside the High Court in London on Tuesday after they won a long-running fight to secure the right to retire in Britain.
Members of the famous unit, which has fought for Britain since 1815, most recently in Iraq and Afghanistan, overturned an earlier ruling that meant those who retired before 1997 had no automatic right to live in Britain.
All other foreign soldiers in the British Army can settle in Britain after four years’ service anywhere in the world. About 2,000 Gurkhas are affected by the current rules. High Court judge Mr Justice Blake ruled that instructions given by the Home Office to immigration officials were unlawful and must be changed.
“Today is a wonderful, terrific victory day for the Gurkhas of Nepal,” said lawyer Martin Howe, who represented them. “It is a victory for common sense, it is a victory for fairness.”
Dozens of Gurkhas and their supporters gathered outside court waving the regiment’s green flag, which bears two kukris, a traditional Nepalese curved knife.
They gave three cheers for actress Joanna Lumley, who supported their campaign because her father was a member of the regiment.
“This day is more important than I can tell you,” she said. “It gives our country the chance to right a great wrong and to wipe out a national shame.”
During the hearing, their barrister Edward Fitzgerald said a decision to bar Gurkhas because they were based in Hong Kong until the territory was returned to China in 1997 was unfair.
He rejected government claims that they did not have close links with Britain.
After the ruling, Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the rules would be rewritten.
“In light of the court’s ruling we will revise and publish new guidance,” she said. “We will honour our commitment to the Gurkhas by reviewing all cases by the end of the year.” The Ministry of Defence made no comment on the ruling.
Gurkhas were first recruited by colonial rulers in India in the 19th century as a “martial race” known for their bravery