Following criticism by a Facebook Group
13th September 2011: A Gurkha welfare society has called for positive discussion amid, what it called growing criticism of the number of Nepalese immigrants arriving in Aldershot and Farnborough.
The British Gurkha Welfare Society (BGWS) said it was concerned about a Facebook group that condemned the government for not doing more to help Rushmoor deal with an invasion of Gurkhas and their families.
BGWS and the Greater Rushmoor Nepali Community (GRNC) said there had also been public notices doing the same, including one that was hanging in a football club’s bar.
The High Court decided in 2009 to allow Gurkhas with more than four years’ service to settle in Britain. This had led to hundreds coming to live in Rushmoor, with considerable numbers also settling in Camberley, Fleet and Sandhurst.
Actress Joanna Lumley campaigned for the Gurkhas’ right to settle and became a figurehead for the campaign.
A Facebook group ‘Lumley’s legacy’, which disapproves of the government for not giving more money and support to Rushmoor to deal with the influx, had attracted 664 members as the News and Mail went to press.
BGWS chairman Tikendra Dewan said he had no uncertanity over the majority of the people expressing their concern, had the best intention and thought very highly of the Gurkhas.
He added “I would ask that these people think very carefully about what they are doing, and to remember that without the right to settle, many elderly Gurkhas, who have given selflessly to this country’s armed forces, would have been left in desperate poverty in Nepal.”
Dewan further elaborated “We want to work with the local authorities, services and community to get the best for everyone.”
He asserted that there were other areas in the UK that had productively integrated significant numbers of Gurkhas into their communities, and need to learn from this example in Rushmoor.
The BGWS and GRNC have warned that the growing anxiety in Rushmoor are symptomatic of Gurkha welfare issues not being fully resolved.
They have called on the government to grant equal pensions to those veterans who retired before 1997 – thereby allowing Gurkhas and their families their preference of staying in Nepal and reducing the cost to the UK.
The News and Mail contacted the founder of Lumley’s Legacy, Sam Phillips, who sent a reply with a statement from the group.
He said: “What happened next (after the influx) was that this caused and is still causing a huge drain on the local services. On top of housing and support they now also need translators for doctor and dentist appointments which has to be paid for on an already over-stretched budget.
Philips added “As a group, our problems are not with the Nepalese people themselves but the government and the fact that they never prepared the infrastructure or supplied more money to cope with the massive influx of people to such a small area.”
Phillips also said the group recognised the sacrifice of the Gurkhas and warned anyone who made racist remarks in the group would be removed.
Members of the group have been discussing exactly how many Nepalese people have immigrated to the borough and what impact this has had on services.
Rushmoor Borough Council has joined the group to discuss the issues people are raising there.