NATION

We Were Not Told Of Procedure, Says British Army Veteran Lagilagi

She claimed that she was never told of the requirements and procedures to follow after retiring from the British Army and needed to stay back in the United Kingdom.
15 Mar 2020 11:00
We Were Not Told Of Procedure, Says British Army Veteran Lagilagi
Merewalesi Lagilagi at the British Legion Office in Domain, Suva. Photo: Shalveen Chand

Wham, bam and thank you ma’am.

That is how Merewalesi Lagilagi summed up her eight years of service in the British Army.

Ms Lagilagi joined in 2000 and served until 2008. She was married to a Fijian British Army soldier and gave birth while in Britain.

She claimed that she was never told of the requirements and procedures to follow after retiring from the British Army and needed to stay back in the United Kingdom.

After serving eight years, she decided to join the civilian life.

Two years down the line she was informed that because she had not filled the ‘Indefinite Leave to Remain’ application, she was permitted to stay for only four years after her service ended.

Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) or permanent residency (PR) is an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold the right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on their stay and who is free to take up employment or study.

This, she said, leads to veterans being separated from their loved ones.

As for Ms Lagilagi, who had parted ways with her spouse, she is now in Fiji while her 18-year-old daughter lives in England with Ms Lagilagi’s brother, also in the British Army.

“For me, I do not wish to return to England. Fiji is a much preferred place, I have family support here and life is more peaceful,” she said.

“Many of us joined the British Army with the thought that once we had served four years we were automatically granted the right to remain in Britain.”

“But there are veterans who are out there who have been torn from their families and cannot return to England.

“And all of them claim that they were not properly informed that they needed to fill the indefinite leave to remain application.”

She said there were some veterans in Fiji who were married to British citizens, there were cases where veterans were unable to pay their application fees. Some veterans were discharged due to severe Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

“These cases are the ones I feel for. They cannot get the care they have in Britain,” she said.

“Imagine having all the treatment resources and then being shipped to Fiji where the only care is at St Giles Hospital.”

Veterans filed legal proceedings

Meanwhile, Ms Lagilagi said some of the veterans who remained in Britain had filed legal proceeding over the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence’s failure to inform them of the right procedure.

“The plight of many Fijian British Army soldiers would be brought to light.

“I am hoping that our stories provide the soldiers who are serving now a valuable lesson.”

She added that, perhaps, they took for granted the immigration processes.

Ms Lagilagi now works at the British Legion Office in Domain, Suva.

Edited by Selita Bolanavanua

Feedback: shalveen.chand@fijisun.com.fj



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