LONDON, Nov 6: Foreign nationals from Commonwealth nations who have never lived in the UK will be allowed to join the British Armed Forces, with African media outlets already advertising the news.
Ministry of Defence chiefs hope scrapping current residency requirements for Commonwealth citizens will boost the number of foreign personnel enlisted each year from 200 to 1,350, against the backdrop of army bosses struggling to hit recruitment targets, the Daily Telegraph reports.
Rules requiring Commonwealth citizens to have lived in the UK for five years before applying for service were previously lifted in 2016 for some specialist roles including metalsmiths and medical technicians, with the number capped at 200 annually across the Army, Royal Navy, and RAF.
But under the move announced Monday, overseas applicants will be considered for every role, according to The Telegraph, with recruits given “exempt immigration control” status for as long as they serve, and after four years they can apply for British citizenship.
A week ahead of the news appearing in the UK press, information on the new opportunities in the British armed forces which will be available for Kenyan nationals under the rules change were already being publicised across local media in the African nation.
TUKO, a major news and entertainment website in Kenya, tells would-be applicants: “Anyone travelling to the UK is required to be in possession of a visa. In this case, if you successfully earned an opportunity to join the British Army, you will be subject for an exempt from immigration control.”
Armed Forces Minister Mark Lancaster said: “As an outward-looking nation, Britain has always counted on the dedicated service of our friends from the Commonwealth to keep this country safe.
“From Australia to Jamaica, to Fiji and South Africa, Commonwealth recruits are already playing a key role in our Armed Forces.
“We’re stepping up the numbers of recruits from the Commonwealth, knowing that they will bring key skills and dedicated service to our military.”
While ministers claimed Britain would gain “perspective,” “cultural understanding,” and “an operational advantage over our adversaries” as a result of the move, MPs reportedly said it highlighted the recruitment crisis, with a report earlier this year finding the armed forces 8,200 personnel short.
Mark Francois, who sits on the Defence Select Committee, said he welcomed the announcement, but that it “cannot excuse” Capita, the business service provider contracted to run the armed forces’ recruitment campaign, whose work he described as an “unmitigated disaster.”
“The army is disappearing before our eyes and will continue to do so until Capita are sacked,” he told The Telegraph, lamenting that, “according to evidence given recently to the Defence Committee, the army will be lucky to achieve 50 per cent of its recruiting figures this year.”
Mr Francois produced a report last year warning that the British military was “hollowing out” as a result of problems with recruitment, which recommended the armed forces do more to attract ethnic minorities and women.
Breitbart London previously reported how the ‘Army Belonging 2018’ campaign aimed at promoting diversity of religion, gender, sexuality, and ethnicity within the ranks of the armed forces came under fire at the beginning of this year, with critics asserting that identity politics were not the answer to recruitment woes.
“The army, like the rest of government, is being forced down a route of political correctness,” warned former British army commander in Afghanistan, Colonel Richard Kemp CBE.
“What is most important is that the army is full of soldiers. It is of secondary importance that they reflect the composition of society.
“The main group of people who are interested in joining aren’t worried so much about whether they are going to be listened to… they are going to be attracted by images of combat.”
He added: “Of course the more people from all parts of society who join the better, but it’s even more important to fill the army up with people who want to fight and want to be soldiers and this I don’t think will do that.”