‘It’s not fair or right’ – Government told Commonwealth veterans should not face barriers to staying

Ex-serviceman Cllr Glyn Hayes. Picture: DANNY LOO

Ex-serviceman Cllr Glyn Hayes. Picture: DANNY LOO - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Ex-serviceman and borough councillor Glyn Hayes has called on Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council to ask the government to let Commonwealth veterans waive “hefty fees” that prevent them from remaining in the UK.

WHBC's Veteran Covenant Champion Cllr Glyn Hayes. Picture: John Spavins/ John Hawthorne

WHBC's Veteran Covenant Champion Cllr Glyn Hayes. Picture: John Spavins/ John Hawthorne - Credit: Archant

Armed forces covenant champion for Welwyn Hatfield Councillor Hayes, Labour, asked a full council meeting on Monday, November 23 to agree that all commonwealth veterans who have served a minimum of four years should be granted automatic and free of charge right to remain in the UK.

He added that any veteran who completes 12 years of service should be automatically given British citizenship without charge.

While waiting for a decision on settlement status, veterans are unable to seek employment, claim benefits or register with a GP under the hostile environment policy.

The council unanimously agreed and backed the motion and its leader Cllr Tony Kingsbury, Conservative, thanked Cllr Hayes for raising it and said he would write to the prime minister, the minister of state for immigration, the MP for Welwyn Hatfield and the minister of state for veterans.

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“It’s important we remember the bravery and sacrifices they made,” Cllr Kingsbury said. “I would ask that [Cllr Hayes] signs the letter along with me. As well as reviewing what we put into it.”

Cllr Hayes, who served in Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan and left in 2004, told the WHT following the meeting that he was grateful this issue was starting to be taken seriously by those across political parties.

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“All parties are recognising there needs to be investment in veterans,” he said. “[Commonwealth veterans] have helped in all manner of ways bolster out armed forces.

“You could lose your life and it’s not fair and its not right for us not to make the process easier.”

He added in general there is a lack of support for veterans after they leave and much is left to sort out for themselves. He explained: “There is a resettlement process [...] but many leave with no prospects to retrain.

READ MORE: Welwyn Garden City veteran reflects on still being stuck in immigration limbo“I think the forces is a big concern. It almost acts like a mini country with every job in civilian life mirrored in the forces.

“And when you’re a mirror system of a country, you find these little cracks [and they] need to be highlighted.”

Councillor Steven Markiewicz, Conservative, also raised the issue that many interpreters, who worked with the armed forces, have not yet secured a right to remain in the UK.

A recent article by the BBC noted that the programme for Afghan interpreters had been expanded after many faced threats.

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