Veterans Aid respond to Drew Hendry MP
CEO Veterans Aid Dr Hugh Milroy has responded to Drew Hendry MP.
I read Drew Hendry’s article with interest because, poignant though Mr Omondi’s story is, it is just one of hundreds of similar cases that Veterans Aid has encountered over the years. Since 2007 we have interacted with nearly 700 Foreign & Commonwealth veterans seeking help with status issues. These range from regularisation of their own status to complicated appeals to reunite, or keep together, families. Indeed during 2012/14 – well before the scale of the Windrush debacle was revealed - we highlighted two landmark cases that effected a change in the law.
A national of Botswana, described by senior military figures as an “intelligent, motivated and hard-working soldier” with an “exemplary record of conduct”, faced deportation because he had a speeding conviction. An equally well regarded Fijiian soldier, with a British wife and two British-born children, also faced deportation because of a minor military disciplinary action. Veterans Aid supported both individuals until successful outcomes had been achieved, but most simply slip through the net unless a journalist or politician takes up cudgels on their behalf.
More recently, in a case remarkably similar to the one Drew Hendry describes, Veterans Aid successfully helped to reunite a father from Sierra Leone with his daughter. It took nine months to resolve. (*This is not VA’s core business, but on the basis of considerable experience with a similar case we are happy to advise if required?)
Behind each ‘case' there is a tale of human misery and while the details differ, the causes rarely do. Residency and status regulations are complex and inflexible. Advice to those about to leave the Armed Forces is either not given, or not given a priority. Costs relating to residency and citizenship applications are prohibitively high – and well beyond the budget of a typical former infantry soldier with a family.