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Resettlement programme for refugees from Bhutan passes 50,000 mark

News Stories, 17 August 2011

© UNHCR/K.Das Shrestha
Most of the resettled refugees have started new lives in the United States. This family learn how to use the subway system in New York.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, August 17 (UNHCR) Jai Prasad Sunuwar flew to South Dakota in the United States earlier this month, becoming the 50,000th refugee originating from Bhutan to be resettled from Nepal under a programme launched four years ago by UNHCR and its partners.

"This is a fantastic outcome," said Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR's representative in Nepal. He said the milestone could not have been reached without "the incredible generosity of the resettlement countries, the resilience of the refugees and the great support from the Nepalese government and people."

Under one of UNHCR's largest resettlement programmes, more than 42,000 of the refugees have begun new lives in the United States. Others have left camps in eastern Nepal for resettlement in Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. They had come to Nepal during the early 1990s, fleeing ethnic tensions in Bhutan.

"The departure of the 50,000th refugee from Nepal for resettlement abroad is a noteworthy milestone, one that marks the realization of the efforts of a multinational partnership," said US Ambassador to Nepal Scott H. DeLisi.

The UN refugee agency is responsible for interviewing refugees and referring their files to resettlement countries, while the International Organization for Migration conducts health assessments, organizes cultural orientation courses and transports the refugees from Nepal to their countries of resettlement.

When the resettlement programme began in November 2007 there were almost 110,000 refugees from Bhutan residing in seven camps in eastern Nepal, three of which have since been closed. Of those remaining in the camps, some 47,000 have expressed an interest in resettlement.

Ambassador DeLisi said the United States expected to resettle more of the refugees still in Nepal. "At the same time, we continue to hope that the government of Bhutan will allow those of their citizens who want to return to their country to do so without restriction," he added.

Jaquemet, meanwhile, noted that the acceptance rate by the countries of resettlement stood at 99 per cent, which he said was the highest in the world. UNHCR, together with the international community, will continue efforts to find lasting solutions to the plight of the refugees, including voluntary repatriation.

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