Monday, February 11, 2008

The Mercenary Army

Britain has almost as many overseas volunteers serving in its armed forces as the French Foreign Legion, The Herald revealed.

The number of soldiers from Commonwealth and other countries who enlisted in the UK's Army, Navy and RAF rose by 790 last year to 7240. By comparison, the famous Legion Etrangere has 7600 men in its ranks.If the 3000 Gurkhas were included, Britain's foreign legion would outnumber that of France and Spain, which deliberately recruit foreigners for military service.

They include 2030 Fijians, 600 Zimbabweans and 460 from the tiny Caribbean island state of St Vincent and the Grenadines. There are also 880 from South Africa, 140 from Kenya and 170 from Australian and New Zealand. Another 80 are from Canada. Almost one in 10 of the soldiers in the Royal Regiment of Scotland is Fijian. The number of Caribbean volunteers has shot up, with the St Vincent contingent rising from 280 in 2006 to 460 last year. South African volunteers rose from 720 to 880, while Trindad and Tobago's contribution to British numbers increased by almost one-third from 70 to just over 100.

High unemployment at home, almost 25% in most Caribbean islands, and political or social unrest appear to be the main driving forces behind the enlistments. Zimbabwe, now in economic and political meltdown, produced a 20% rise.

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