Nepal: Resettlement opportunities could help resolve plight of Bhutanese

Briefing Notes, 13 January 2006

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 13 January 2006, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

Given the current situation in Nepal, UNHCR believes that resettlement opportunities for some Bhutanese refugees who have been in the country for the last 15 years, should now be seized.

Some 105,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven camps in the east of Nepal since the early 1990s making it one of the most protracted refugee situations in Asia. Despite 15 rounds of bilateral negotiations between Bhutan and Nepal on repatriation from which UNHCR has been excluded, not a single refugee has returned home.

However, some Western countries have recently expressed a strong interest to UNHCR in resettling some of the refugees. Bhutan had said earlier that it would allow the return of some Bhutanese refugees. If resettlement could start, along with some refugee return movement to Bhutan, this could pave the way for a comprehensive approach to resolving this longstanding situation.

There are currently some very vulnerable cases submitted for resettlement to third countries, and we would hope that Nepal, which has not yet signed their exit visas, will do so shortly to ease their humanitarian plight.

In general, tensions and frustrations are rising in the camps as the refugees see little hope for their future. The ending of a two-month unilateral ceasefire by Maoist rebels last week has added to security concerns in the country.

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A new life for refugees from BhutanPlay video

A new life for refugees from Bhutan

They fled to Nepal from Bhutan amid ethnic tensions in the early 1990s. Now, many of the slightly more than 100,000 refugees have been offered the possibility of resettlement to another country.