London, May 9 (ANI): British Immigration Minister Phil Woolas has reassured Gurkha veterans that he will address their residency rights issue with sincerity and added that they may still be allowed to move to this country.
Woolas was speaking on the BBC Radio Four Today programme alongside the actress and campaigner Joanna Lumley, a day after they clashed at an impromptu press conference in a Westminster television studio.
Denying claims that the Gordon Brown Government's handling of the Gurkha issue had become a shamble since it lost a Commons vote on proposed criteria for assessing residency applications, The Telegraph quoted Woolas a s saying:
"The Government knows exactly what it is doing. The difficulty the Government has is that its explanations are not being comprehensively reported and we are seeing snapshots of a campaign."
Woolas added that the letters informed the Gurkhas that their applications had been turned down under the old rules, but contained notes informing them that their cases could be reassessed under the new conditions, which are currently being devised.
Lumley, who yesterday condemned the "travesty" of the Gurkhas' treatment, turned up the heat on Woolas by dismissing his concerns that allowing all Gurkhas to live in Britain would set a legal precedent entitling Second World War veterans from Commonwealth countries to apply for residency.
The minister and the actress ended up shoulder-to-shoulder after Lumley signalled she was about to denounce the Government over its treatment of Gurkhas who had applied to settle in the UK.
The row centers on immigration rules for Gurkhas who retired before 1997, which were put in place last month and which campaigners say would severely limit the number of veterans able to settle in the country they fought for.
Those rules triggered widespread public anger, and were condemned in a Commons vote last week. (ANI)