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Refugee resettlement referral from Nepal reaches six-figure mark

News Stories, 26 April 2013

© UNHCR/N.Gurung
Rewati Maya Darjee with her husband and two sons. The family will soon be departing for resettlement in the United States.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, April 26 (UNHCR) The resettlement of refugees from Bhutan reached a major milestone this week, with 100,000 people having been referred for resettlement from Nepal to third countries since the programme began in 2007. Nearly 80,000 of them have started their new lives in eight different countries an important step towards resolving one of the most protracted refugee situations in Asia.

"This is an incredible achievement in the history of this refugee programme and for UNHCR," said Diane Goodman, UNHCR's acting representative in Nepal. She thanked the Nepalese government, resettlement and donor countries, and partner agencies, commenting also on the courage and resilience of the refugees.

Rewati May Darjee will soon join the tens of thousands of refugees who have received a new lease on life in resettlement countries. Together with her husband and two sons, she travelled from Beldangi camp in eastern Nepal to the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu on Thursday, on a plane chartered by the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

In the IOM transit centre in Kathmandu, she and her family will be given a final medical examination and an orientation course. Next Wednesday, they will take the final leg of their journey to their new home in Atlanta in the United States.

Dressed in new clothes and looking a little apprehensive, Rewati reflected on what the future might bring, "I am happy that we are finally going to have our own identity in a new country and not spend our lives as refugees in the camps," said Rewati. "The camps are emptying quite fast; almost everyone has gone or is in the process of going. I miss my friends who have already left the camps and so do my children."

Since the resettlement programme began six years ago, the UN refugee agency has been interviewing refugees and referring them to resettlement countries for consideration. Once the refugees are accepted by resettlement countries, IOM conducts health assessments, organizes cultural orientation courses and transports the refugees to their new homes.

A number of steps are involved from the time a case is submitted to a resettlement country to the time of departure. Resettlement countries interview the refugees, medical examinations must be done, exit permits issued, cultural orientation conducted and travel arrangements made.

A large number of humanitarian workers are involved in this programme and the success is a testament to their dedicated efforts. Working at IOM, Silki Agrawal begins her day at dawn, escorting refugees from the camps to the IOM office and then to the airport. "We are directly or indirectly contributing to help refugees start their new lives," she said.

UNHCR staff member Tulshi Limbu was just a child when she saw the refugees arriving in Nepal in the early 1990s. "I was astonished to see their challenging situation in terms of food and shelter. After spending 20 years in the refugee camps, resettlement is a great option in helping them start their lives afresh. I feel very proud that, somewhere, my small efforts were a part of this successful operation," she said.

The acceptance rate of UNHCR's referrals in Nepal by resettlement countries is the highest in the world at 99.4 per cent of total submissions. The United States has accepted the largest number of refugees (66,134), followed by Canada (5,376), Australia (4,190), New Zealand (747), Denmark (746), Norway (546), the Netherlands (326) and the United Kingdom (317).

Referring to the number of submissions to date, IOM Chief of Mission in Nepal Maurizio Busatti said, "We look back at these 100,000 stories with resolve and inspiration. We pay tribute to the courage of these women, men and children and to the generosity of those who welcome them at the other end."

Of the original population of 108,000 refugees originating from Bhutan and living in Nepal, some 38,100 remain in the Sanischare and Beldangi camps in eastern Nepal. Most of them have expressed an interest in the resettlement programme.

By Nini Gurung in Kathmandu, Nepal




UNHCR country pages


An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

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Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

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On Wednesday, Germany launched a humanitarian programme to provide temporary shelter and safety to up to 5,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A first group of 107 flew to Hanover in the northern city of Hanover. They will attend cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life over the next two years in Germany, where they will be able to work, study and access basic services. Among the group are Ahmad and his family, including a son who is deaf and needs constant care that was not available in Lebanon. The family fled from Syria in late 2012 after life became too dangerous and too costly in the city of Aleppo, where Ahmad sold car spare parts. Photographer Elena Dorfman followed the family in Beirut as they prepared to depart for the airport and their journey to Germany.

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