LONDON: Britain will give only 4,300 ex-Gurkhas settlement rights, the Home Office said on Friday, falling short of campaigners' demands that they be given to all Nepalese ex-soldiers who retired before 1997.
"Over 4,000 ex Gurkhas and around 6,000 spouses and children will qualify for settlement rights in the UK," the Home Office said in a statement. It confirmed separately that the figure would likely be about 4,300.
The ministry outlined a string of conditions, one of which must be met to secure settlement, including 20 or more years' service or awards for bravery.
At the moment, only Gurkha soldiers who retired after 1997 - when their base was moved from Hong Kong to Britain - have the automatic right to settle permanently.
All other foreign soldiers in the British army can settle in Britain after four years' service.
Martin Howe, a lawyer representing the campaigners, called the decision "nothing short of scandalous" and an "insult" and pledged they would continue their legal battle.
"We are disgusted with what we see today," he said at a protest outside the Houses of Parliament following the decision.
Less than 100 Gurkhas would actually meet the criteria set by the government, campaigners said.
The Nepalese former soldiers have staged repeated protests seeking an injunction obliging ministers to implement a High Court ruling last September that approved extending the right to stay in Britain permanently to all Gurkha veterans.
Around 3,500 Gurkhas currently serve in the British Army, including in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 45,000 in total have died serving Britain.
Officials say that since 2004, over 6,000 former Gurkhas and family members have been granted settlement in the UK under immigration rules.