Briefing Notes, 23 September 2008
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson William Spindler – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at the press briefing, on 23 September 2008, at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
More than 5,000 refugees from Bhutan have left their camps in Nepal for resettlement countries so far this year. The United States has accepted the largest numbers, followed by Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Canada and Denmark.
The resettlement programme in Nepal began only this year but quickly became one of UNHCR's largest and most promising, thanks to close cooperation with the Nepali government, the International Organization for Migration and the resettlement countries.
In total, 4,833 refugees have left for the US, 129 for New Zealand, 131 for Australia, 22 for the Netherlands, 19 for Norway, 16 for Canada and 13 for Denmark.
Over 50,000 refugees have expressed interest in resettlement – just under half of the total 107,000 refugees from Bhutan who live in seven camps in eastern Nepal. Some of them have been in exile for as long as 17 years.
UNHCR staff hold regular meetings with the refugees to answer questions about resettlement and other durable solutions. Special information sessions are for women at risk or people with disabilities. Refugees are being offered English classes as well as additional vocational and skill-based training to prepare for a life in a new country.
Another 2,000 to 3,000 refugees are expected to leave Nepal for third countries by the end of this year. At the same time, UNHCR continues to advocate for the option of voluntary return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to do so, and hopes that talks on repatriation can restart soon.