By Gabriel Callaghan, Fourth Year Physics.
The British press has been focused on smokescreen topics such as Brexit for far too long. We must confront a profound injustice in British society: the way we treat our veterans. An article about war veterans facing deportation from the land they fought to protect recently appeared in a less than obvious place on the BBC News website. With 7.5% of new British Army recruits hailing from the Commonwealth, this injustice is going to get worse[i].
Veterans are forced to pay extortionate visa fees, of £2,389 per person, almost £10,000 for an average family[ii]. Who has £10,000 in savings when the starting salary of an Army Private is £20,000 a year? This is clearly insufficient to allow them and their families to live.
Why should an honourably discharged British soldier have to pay to keep their family in the country they risked their life to protect? Without paying for British citizenship or permanent residence, they can’t access GP services or social security under a ‘hostile environment’[iii] policy, leaving them destitute.
We must confront a profound injustice in British society: the way we treat our veterans.
A recent case showed that a soldier was medically discharged due to injuries suffered in service. They were subsequently made homeless and separated from their family due to draconian immigration rules[iv]. When a Commonwealth citizen leaves the British Forces, they have no legal immigration status – and such instances are not in the minority.
The Gurkha Brigade is composed of Nepalese recruits who have been an integral part of the British Army for 200 years, best known for their Kukris. One recruit, Dipprasad Pun was awarded a Conspicuous Gallantry Cross for single-handedly preventing his checkpoint from being overrun by the Taliban[v].
However, the Gurkhas are treated unfairly. One Gurkha Colonel had to go to court to obtain permission for his 75-year-old sister to remain in the UK[vi]. Another Gurkha soldier who served for fifteen years was deported and had to pay medical fees for his wife suffering a coma[vii]. The only support he received was from the Royal British Legion, leaving him destitute.
Gordon Brown had sufficient money to sell the gold reserves at bargain basement prices but said that it was too expensive to let the Gurkhas stay in the UK[viii]. Families of war heroes have been separated and once their Gurkha relative has died, they have been deported.
When a Commonwealth citizen leaves the British Forces, they have no legal immigration status – and such instances are not in the minority.
The deportation rhetoric has become stronger with Brexit. But the government is clueless. We allow ‘career criminals’ to remain in the UK with the taxpayer subsidising their lifestyle, but we remove soldiers who defend our freedom! When the Government ‘gets tough’ on immigration, it’s tough on those who contribute to society and employs liberal orthodoxy towards others.
Then, there are at least 13,000 homeless soldiers with PTSD, seemingly only assisted by charities[ix]. These soldiers have been traumatised and are often inadequately prepared for life outside the military. TV programmes such as ‘Commando School’ or ‘SAS–Are You Tough Enough’ do not depict the scars of war. The soldiers are often neglected, and the Army wonders why it faces a recruitment crisis. Quite simply – if the Government treated them properly and had not made many of them redundant, there would be no problem.
In the US, veterans are respected and celebrated with US Marine adverts in the most obscure of places. But, in the UK, any appreciation seems tokenistic with people being afraid of flying their Regiment’s flag. We have Veteran Badges, but it’s bureaucratic to obtain one. Regrettably, it seems that there is very little support for soldiers after being discharged except from their old Army friends.
[viii] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/5243815/Gordon-Brown-attacked-over-Gurkha-stance.html, https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/gordon-brown-gold-reserves-sold-economy-analysis-financial-bullion-a8909611.html
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