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Gambians in the UK military increases

Oct 8, 2008, 6:51 AM | Article By: Alhagie Mbye our UK Correspondent

Gambians recruited in the British Army has increased steadily within the past few years and currently reaching at least 125 people prompting such figures to include The Gambia as one of the Commonwealth nations in the list of its foreign soldiers forming part of the finest military in the world.

Even though some traditionalists are now demanding that the foreign military numbers to be capped in the range of 14 or 15 percent limit for the sake of 'Britishness' within it ranks, several observers and respectable commentators have emphasised the vital importance of the services of such foreign military personnel serving the United Kingdom.

So far it has been revealed that there are thousands of foreign nationals serving in the United Kingdom military holding various positions. Some of the foreign figures include 3,800 Napalese Gurkhas, 2,005 Fijians, 730 South Africans, 685 Ghanaians, 660 Jamaicans, 460 Zimbabweans, 235 from St Vincent, and similar figure from the Republic of Ireland, 190 St Lucians and 140 Malawians.

Unconfirmed reports have also indicated that certain government officials said they could support the recommended restriction based on founded facts. Human rights bodies and the powerful independent race relations watch dogs also dismissed the idea of such limit and hailed the foreign soldiers as importance and necessary.

Many foreigners residing in the country have indicated that they are willing to join the United Kingdom military due to its professionalism and neutrality. In a recent television debate and question time, Africans who contacted the programme said they are proud to apply for any position as long as they could serve their host country and achieve the benefits that follow.

However they demanded that vacancies in the military should also include other crucial position and not only infantry. A lady who identified herself as a West African told presenters that she was proud to apply and face the challenges of the military because the military is her dream job. She said: 'I love to be part of the military for a long time; i think it is a great idea and is my dream job in fact i will apply if i get the opportunity today'.

However Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox this week said that 'there are problems looming' as far as such recruits are concerned. According to the opposition conservative official, certain commonwealth countries are already planning to enact new laws that would deprive the country of such soldiers. Therefore he suggested that it's vital to recruit and retain enough soldiers from Britain.

The Equality and Human Rights Commission is also adding its voice to the debate stressing that 'there are large issues of principle regarding the matter'. It maintained its stance that foreigners should be allowed the opportunity to enlist in the military if they are lawfully residing in the country. It further indicated that according to the Race Relation Act it is unlawful to treat foreigners working in the country less favourably.

The government said it believes in fairness and has recognised the effort and contribution of such foreign nations in the military; recently certain foreign nationals serving in the military have been awarded with medal or decorated for job well done.

Johnson Beharry from the Caribbean was recently given the award of the Victorian Cross by the Queen for his bravery and for 'rescuing his comrades from ambushes in Iraq under fire twice'. In a colourful ceremony the Queen emphasising the importance of the awarded told him that she 'did not get chance to present such awards very often'.

Critics who disfavours such awards to other nationals protested that according to tradition it was only reserve for whites or British nationals in the military. However they have been told that in 1914 foreigner Khudadad Khan was awarded the Victoria Cross while William Hall a Royal Navy officer who happened to be black and born in Nova Scotia also received the Victoria Cross. Interestingly it was revealed that Lance Corporal William James Gordon who was born in the West Indies won the Victoria Cross while he worked in The Gambia in 1892.