Nepal: large-scale resettlement of refugees from Bhutan

Briefing Notes, 25 March 2008

This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Jennifer Pagonis to whom quoted text may be attributed at the press briefing, on 25 March 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

One of the world's largest resettlement operations has started this week in Nepal. Over 100 refugees from Bhutan left their camps in eastern Nepal last weekend for Kathmandu and are heading to the United States this week.

This is the largest movement of refugees from Nepal's camps so far, and the pace will pick up in the coming months. By year's end, over 10,000 refugees are expected to leave for resettlement countries such as the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway.

To date, a total of 25,000 refugees have registered for resettlement after up to 17 years in the camps. UNHCR has submitted over 12,000 names to resettlement countries, mostly to the US. More refugees are expected to come forward for resettlement after they hear of how the first groups integrate in their new homes. Other refugees say they want to wait for a chance to repatriate to Bhutan.

More than 107,000 refugees from Bhutan are currently living in seven camps in eastern Nepal.

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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.