Gurkhas club together for MoD requestBy Stephanie Cockroft
May 24, 2012
GURKHAS have raised £600 to buy information from the Ministry of Defence in a bid to prove they are not a burden on those living in Aldershot.
It comes after two campaign groups launched petitions to lobby the government about an influx of Nepalese living in the borough of Rushmoor.
Now a group of campaigners who fight for Gurkha rights, including several Gurkhas from the Aldershot and Farnborough communities, have sent a request to the MoD to find out full details of what it is costing the UK to cater for the large numbers of Nepalese families.
The group was also encouraged to take action after an article in the People on Sunday, in which Tory MP Patrick Mercer claimed Gurkha soldiers were much more expensive than their British counterparts.
But the level of information requested was so detailed that the MoD said the group had to pay £600 for the time it would take to research the responses.
It prompted Gurkhas from around Hampshire, and particularly from barracks around Aldershot, to cobble together and ask as many people as possible in their community to donate £1.
The fundraising target was reached in just two days.
David Hughes, a former committee member of the Yateley and Hawley Royal British Legion, who describes himself as a Gurkha Welfare Specialist, pioneers the campaign group Vote 4 Gurkha Rights, which has submitted the request under the Freedom of Information act.
He said: “To see stories about people living in Aldershot setting up campaigns and petitions against Nepalese people is shocking. I am alive because of Gurkhas.
“The problem is that few people understand at the moment what the impact on Gurkhas and their families is. They are making a huge contribution to our society.
“After seeing these stories, the Gurkhas were so adamant that the truth should prevail, they had no problem doing a whip-round and getting the money together.”
Mr Hughes added that residents could expect “nothing else” from a Garrison town.
Among the 30 questions submitted by the group is a request about how much the British Government has been paid in citizenship charges from wives, children and serving officers of Gurkhas.
The group also wants to know how much money the British Government has given to charities, local authorities, community groups and NHS bodies, in relation to Gurkhas’ right to settle. Mr Hughes said: “Gurkha veterans and their families are working civilian tax payers.
“They are a major part of military and civilian working society in the UK.”
Last week, MP for Aldershot Gerald Howarth accepted a 2,000-strong petition from Lumley’s Legacy, which he says he will hand to the government.