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Suffolk council pledges support for Commonwealth and Nepalese veterans

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Ipswich Borough Council has pledged that Commonwealth and Nepalese (Gurkha) veterans are not disadvantaged in accessing council support services.

A motion passed unanimously at Ipswich Borough Council recognised that many Commonwealth and Nepalese (Gurkha) veterans have experienced problems in relation to visa fees, and pledged that council officers would do all they could to ensure they were not disadvantaged in their applications for council support.

In addition, the council will write to Ipswich MPs Tom Hunt and Dr Dan Poulter, as well as the Government, requesting they do all they can to ensure veterans from Commonwealth and Nepalese nations are automatically given the right to remain the UK and at no expense if they have served four years or more.

Cllr Samantha Murray (49970365)
Cllr Samantha Murray (49970365)

The letter will call on the Government to allow any veteran with 12 years of service to be granted British Citizenship without delay should they wish to.

A recent Home Office consultation proposed to waive the £2,389 cost of visa applications for those veterans from non-UK nations who have served in the armed forces.

Councillors recognised it was welcome but said that the "suggested changes to the regulations do not go far enough".

Councillor Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for community protection (49970376)
Councillor Alasdair Ross, portfolio holder for community protection (49970376)

Labour councillor Alasdair Ross, pictured, himself an armed forces veteran who submitted the motion, said: “In 2009, I was fortunate enough to serve in Afghanistan with 2nd Battalion, The Rifles.

"Over 50 men and women in that battle group came from the Commonwealth, 35 of those heroes were from Fiji. One of those did not return. Rifleman Toge was killed whilst on patrol in July 2009.

“Currently if any of his 34 comrades wished to stay in the UK they have to fill in numerous forms and then pay over £2,000 in visa fees. That is not acceptable when these riflemen have risked their lives in the service of this country.”

Conservative councillor Sam Murray, pictured, who has served as a TA, tabled an amendment agreed by all to include Nepalese Gurkhas, and includes a commitment for the council to assess whether it is doing enough to support both veterans and those currently serving.

That will be considered at a future scrutiny committee meeting.

She said: “Commonwealth and Nepalese (Ghurkha) personnel are the backbone of our armed forces. These men and women leave behind family and friends to move across the world to serve in the British Army.

"The sacrifice they make cannot be underestimated. Immigration and nationality fees are no way to say thank you for their service and should be scrapped."

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