The Nepalese: a cost or a benefit for UK?

Deepak Neupane

There is no long history of Nepalese migration in the United Kingdom.  During 1960s, some Nepalese landed on British soil to study medicine, communication and other professional studies; and some of them returned to Nepal whereas others made United Kingdom their home while still in contact with their family and colleagues in Nepal.  Many of the first generation experts have retained and naturalised with English language and culture.  Their children may not be keeping up with Nepali society, culture and language.  

Subsequently, a small number arrived in catering industries through Indian restaurants in the early eighties and soon established their own Nepalese restaurants.  Now there are more than two hundred restaurants are operating in the UK.  Since then, the UK has been a popular destination for Nepalese migrants to work study and live to give their children a better life.

Although a substantial number of Nepalese soldiers were serving under the Crown service of the UK in the Brigade of Ghurkha Army, most of the serving stations were outside of the UK before 1997 and they had remote opportunity to enter the UK for settlement.

After handover of Hong Kong to China in 1997, the British Ghurkha army was amalgamated into the Brigade of Gurkha within the UK.  Major units of the Brigade at present are; The Royal Gurkha rifles (two infantry battalions) one in Brunei and one in Dover, The Queen’s Gurkha Engineers (Maidstone), The Queen’s Gurkha Signals (York, Staffordshire and Warwickshire) and the Queen’s own Gurkha Logistic Regiment (Aldershot).  In addition – Gurkha Company (Sittang) at The Royal Military Academy in Sandhurst and Gurkha Company (Mandalay) at the Infantry Battle School, Bracon are two independent companies.

Due to having stronghold of brigade of Gurkha soldiers in Shornecliff and Folkestone in Kent; Aldershot, Farnborough in Hampshire and Sandhurst in Surrey,   the numbers of Nepalese people’s settlements in those area is relatively higher.

With the influx of sizeable number of Nepalese during the late 1990s and early 2000s; their first destination was East London and Rushmoor area.  Most of the army relations were living in Aldershot which was a popular destination of Ghurkha army as they were trained in Churchcrookham and nearby Sandhurst.

With respect to the change in immigration rules proposed by Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith in May 2009, the Rushmoor and surrounding area became a destination of not only the ex-Ghurkha but also other non-army Nepalese migrants.

Integration in new culture and advanced society is a challenge for Nepalese migrant, especially old aged people from Nepal.  However, the professional, social and cultural institutions established and operated by the Nepalese individuals, community, Council and UK public sector have contributed significantly in integration and adaptation process for new arrivals and those who were already here but were struggling.  At present, many Nepalese are exposed to the community based volunteer and charity programmes aiming to work in their local and wider communities as well.

The recent statement “Nepalese Influx to Rushmoor should be stopped” made by MP Gerald Howarth has heated up the Nepalese community and the natives in the Rushmoor area.  Are Nepalese a cost or a benefit for the UK?  This is a debatable issue.

However, since two hundred years, the Nepalese Gurkhas serving in British Gurkha have been a benefit for the UK not only from the perspectives of national security but also wider economic benefit from the beginning of Gurkha soldier recruitment.  The Gurkhas are trained in the army for a minimum of 16 years and because of this they are physically and mentally fit even after retirement.  This means they could be economically active for at least another 20 years.  Family members of both army and non-army Nepalese are content in taking jobs that no one else will.  They are reliable and their job turnover rate is relatively lower than most people.  They are sincere and carry out their responsibilities very well.

Not only the new generation is more skilled and professional, even the recently retired Gurkha army personnel are actively involved in economic generating activities.  There are examples of Nepalese entrepreneurs who have successfully established and run businesses and have created employment opportunities in various sectors such as grocery, food and restaurant, cleaning, security etc.

The MP’s statement has not been supportive in course of integration of Nepalese people on the land of Britain.  The social issues raised in a political manner have raised the eyebrows of Nepalese immigrants in Rushmoor and around the area.

The recently published report by NHS on “Health Needs Assessment of the Nepali community in Rushmoor” has underlined some issues and concerns affecting the integration process.  The report has identified major issues of various social obstacles affecting integration such as: communication and cultural barriers; the public stereotyping Nepalese youths as always carrying a knife; difficulty in gaining employment due to poor English; limited knowledge of public service; vulnerable youths involved in substance use; different education systems in the UK and Nepal; lack of understanding of the British justice system and administrative structures; difficult to get access to benefits etc. Though the report has pointed out various genuine issues but it also could not identify and separate the degree and magnitude of the concerns to be addressed according to their classified urgencies.  And in some extent the findings also seem to be stereotyped and dominated by the pre conceived feelings about Nepalese people.

To manage the Nepalese who have already arrived in the UK will be slightly expensive.  Nevertheless, in the long run, it has been proven that their settlement is beneficial not only to the Nepalese community but also equally to multicultural Britain as a whole.

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