Nepal: Information campaign for Bhutanese to discourage returning on their own
Next week, UNHCR is launching an information campaign for Bhutanese refugees in camps in eastern Nepal, to warn about the pitfalls of trying to return home on their own. The campaign follows an attempt earlier this month of some 300 refugees who tried to cross the Nepal/Indian border but were turned back by Indian security forces. During this episode, some refugees were pelted with stones by unknown elements, causing light injuries. After becoming stranded at the border, the refugees were returned to the Beldangi refugee camps by the Nepalese authorities. It appears that some refugees were intimidated to take part in this unofficial return and had been falsely told it was organised by UNHCR. The information campaign will clarify that we are not organising repatriations, and that by trying to return on their own could expose the refugees to physical harm.
While we understand the acute desire of the refugees to return home after 15 years in exile, and their frustration that 15 rounds of bilateral negotiations between Bhutan and Nepal have failed to see a single refugee return, our concern is for their well being and they are not given false hopes and manipulated.
The Bhutanese refugee situation is one of the longest running refugee situations in Asia. There are some 105,000 Bhutanese refugees in seven camps in eastern Nepal. UNHCR has always been excluded from the bilateral negotiations on their eventual return to Bhutan, but continues to advocate strongly for a comprehensive solution to this long-running situation, which is almost at the point of seeing second-generation refugee children.