The fierce fighters known as Gurkhas have long helped Britain's military on the battlefield. But they didn't have the right to live in Britain, until today. The World's Laura Lynch reports from London.
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LISA MULLINS: After the pounding it's taken over the expense account scandal the British government got a bit of good publicity today. It's allowing the legendary fighters known to the world as the Gurkhas the right to live in Britain. The Nepalese warriors' grit and ferocity carried them to victory on dozens of battlefields. But much of the credit for today's win goes to an actress who's known more for her onscreen sex appeal then for her political savvy. The World's Laura Lynch reports from London.
LAURA LYNCH: With word good news was coming a small clutch of Gurkhas stood across the street from Parliament huddled around a radio. Inside the minister responsible for immigration, Jacqui Smith, announced the government's surrender.
JACQUI SMITH: And I'm delighted that we have now been able to agree across government, across the House, and with the Gurkhas representatives new settlement rights that all those who have served so well so highly deserve. And I commend this statement to the house.
LYNCH: In the midst of the crowd of elderly men, Joanna Lumley stood out. Once cast as a Bond girl, later in life portraying a middle-aged drunken sexpot her passion now is the Gurkhas fight for the right to live in Britain. Her father commanded Gurkhas. One of them saved his life. No wonder she's devoted to the cause. Lumley became the regiments unofficial general and showed she knew how to win the public relations war.
JOANNA LUMLEY: The extraordinary thing is that today a great injustice has been righted. We won't be looking behind us. We're paying tribute to the future. And for the people of Great Britain what could be greater than to be able to open our arms and say the Gurkhas are coming? Ayo Gurkhali!
LYNCH: â€œAyo Gukhaliâ€ they yelled. Repeating the battle cry that has carried them through wars around the world for almost 200 years. In spite of their long service to Britain thousands were refused the right to settle here. Madan Khumar Gurung was one of them.
MADAN KHUMAR GURUNG: I've given my life for this country â€“ to the crown, the Queen, everybody. I left all my family back home in the hills of Nepal and came to serve for Great Britain. After having served for 24 years and finished the army I came to ask for my settlement right here in the UK. And they turned me down saying that I hadn't got any strong relationship with this country.
LYNCH: The news traveled quickly to Nepal. Prakash Rana helps to run the Gurkha Officers Association in Kathmandu.
PRAKASH RANA: The Gurkhas, they are very happy and excited.
LYNCH: Over a bad phone line Rana told me Gurkha veterans started calling as soon as the news spread â€“ happy to hear that maybe the battle was finally won. That includes Rana's 78-year-old father, Ek Bahadur Rana who can't wait to get to Britain. He fought for the country, Rana told me, and he still doesn't know what it looks like. He keeps asking when he's going to get the chance to go.
LYNCH: The government's decision to open the doors wide to all the veterans is a remarkable turnaround. Campaigner Peter Caroll believes the politicians finally listened to what a grateful nation was saying.
PETER CAROLL: A lady wrote in to say that her father in the second world war had been carried for three days through the jungle by a Gurkha soldier. Even though he begged to be left with a gun and some ammunition to take his own life. For three days. And I could give you a thousand examples like that.
LYNCH: the government had resisted allowing all the Gurkhas in arguing it would cost too much, perhaps as much as $2.2 billion. Today though there was no talk of price tags just an acknowledgment that it's past time to repay a debt to the men from Nepal who fought under the Union Jack. For The World I'm Laura Lynch in London.