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Thanks for your military service in Iraq,
but you can't have a passport
By Matilda McLean
A former Army captain who saw active service in Iraq and Kosovo has been refused a British passport partly because he has been out of the country for more than 90 days a year on active service.
Captain Warwick Strong, 29, whose father and grandfather were both colonels in the Army and held British citizenship, served with the Royal Artillery for four years. He was born in Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, where his parents were living at the time, and came to Britain on an ancestral visa, which has been renewed until October 2006.
But despite being praised for his military record, he has been told by the Home Office that he does not qualify for citizenship partly because of his absence from the country as a result of being posted abroad.
Qualification for a passport demands that the applicant must not be out of the country for more than 90 days the year before applying.
"My initial reaction to being denied a visa was complete disgust," Mr Strong said yesterday.
"At the end of the day I have gone out to protect the interests of the country and have been denied the opportunity to be a citizen.
"I feel very angry. The Government uses you when you are of some value to them but when you want something back they say thank you and goodbye."
He was refused a passport because he was not physically present in Britain on a date five years before his application. Despite his service in the Army and his family's military background, the Home Office said Mr Strong had not provided "outstanding military service or other service of direct benefit to the UK" that would exempt him from meeting those criteria.
His grandfather, Colonel Cecil Strong, served in the British Army for 32 years, having fought in both world wars, and was awarded the MC and OBE.
His father, Colonel Jeremy Strong, was commissioned into the Royal Artillery and was awarded the prestigious Sword of Honour as the Royal Military Academy's leading cadet. His grandmother, Jean Strong, who was born in Bristol, served in Queen Alexandra's Royal Nursing Corps.
Col Strong said that he was "livid" with the way his son had been treated, especially in the light of allegations that David Blunkett allegedly helped to fast-track a visa for the nanny of his former lover Kimberly Quinn.
"Had my son been nanny to the Home Secretary's mistress and not opted to defend the citizens of the free world, it would appear that by now he would have had the right of abode in the UK," said Col Strong, who lives near Cirencester, Glos.
Mr Strong, who also lives in Cirencester, was praised for his contributions to the Army when he left earlier this year.
Brigadier Chris Wilson CBE, ADC, the Director Royal Artillery, wrote to Mr Strong stating: "I must thank you on behalf of 26 and 19 Regiments for they have good cause to be grateful for all that you have done for them."
In 1998, Mr Strong enrolled at Sandhurst and after passing out spent the first six months with 19 Regiment Royal Artillery at Larkhill in Salisbury training before being transferred to Gutersloh, Germany.
He served as a platoon commander as part of a peacekeeping force working for the Black Watch regiment in Kosovo, and was sent to Basra as a command post officer for three months from February 2003.
Geoffrey Clifton-Brown, the Conservative MP for the Cotswold constituency, has taken up his case. "It's terrible that people are prepared to lay down their lives serving in the armed forces but can't get citizenship," he said.
Col Strong has been petitioning the Home Office for the last 17 years for British citizenship for his son.
Both Col Strong and his wife Deanne were born in Zimbabwe but have always held British passports, as do their parents.
In 1987, he applied for his son to be granted British citizenship but it was rejected as the family lived in Paris then because Col Strong's job with Norwich Life Insurance required him to travel.
Warwick was at boarding school in England, but returned to South Africa for university before joining the Army and deciding that he wanted to settle in Britain, where his family now live.
"When I decided to attend Sandhurst I was told that by serving in the British Army it would help towards immigration, settling and getting a British visa but in fact it has hindered me," he said.
He applied for British citizenship in 2002 but was rejected because he fell short of the criteria.
He has written to various MPs in an attempt to have his application reviewed, but has been told by the Home Office that he will have to make a fresh application.
Mr Strong is completing a masters degree at the Royal Agricultural College in Cirencester, but said he did not know what he would do when his visa expires in October 2006.
A Home Office spokesman said that it could not comment on individual cases but was still studying Mr Strong's application.