Foreign nationals who have never lived in the UK will be allowed to join the British Army, under new plans aimed at boosting recruitment to the Armed Forces.
According to reports, the Ministry of Defence is set to announce that it is axing the requirement for applicants from Commonwealth countries to have resided in Britain for five years before enlisting. Military bosses hope that an addition 1,350 people will be recruited from foreign countries annually as a result of the policy change.
At present, only 200 Commonwealth citizens per year are allowed to apply without having lived in the UK for five years, the BBC reports.
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The UK Armed Forces are currently suffering a shortfall of around 8,200 soldiers, sailors and air personnel, according to a report by the National Audit Office. It is the worst shortage of personnel in the Armed Forces since 2010, the independent government watchdog noted.
The Guardian reports that the Army “will begin the admissions process from early next year”, while “the Navy and RAF will start immediately”.
Citizens of countries outside the Commonwealth will not be accepted.
“Foreign and Commonwealth troops have historically been important and valued sources of recruitment for the British Army and I welcome the recruitment limit increase,” Mark Francois, a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee, told The Daily Telegraph.
Francois lays much of the blame for the the current recruitment crisis on Capita, the business service provider that runs the Army’s recruitment campaign.
“According to evidence given recently to the defence committee, the Army will be lucky to achieve 50% of its recruiting figures this year,” he said. “The Army is disappearing before our eyes and will continue to do so until Capita are sacked.”
Lieutenant General Sir Mark Poffley, deputy chief of the defence staff, recently told the committee that despite having an annual requirement of around 10,000 recruits, the Army had only accrued around 7,000 entrants for each of the past three years. During the first quarter of this year, only 7% of the required yearly total were recruited.
“They are going to miss the target by some margin,” Poffley warned.
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