Nepal issues exit permits for refugees from Bhutan
UNHCR welcomes Nepal's recent decision to issue exit permits to refugees from Bhutan who voluntarily opt for resettlement. This allows refugees to leave eastern Nepal's camps for third countries once their cases are accepted, and is an important step towards finding solutions for over 107,000 refugees who have been in Nepal for 17 years.
The group resettlement process has been gaining momentum in the camps since it started late last year. Thousands of refugees have expressed interest, and UNHCR has submitted the details of nearly 10,000 interested refugees for consideration by the resettlement countries. The refugees are currently in various stages of the process, ranging from interviews to extensive medical screening and cultural orientation before departure.
The international community is coordinating with the Nepalese government and expects that the first groups of refugees will begin to depart in March, with larger numbers leaving for resettlement countries starting in July.
The United States has offered to consider for resettlement at least 60,000 refugees from Bhutan, and Canada has indicated it will accept up to 5,000. Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway have also indicated their willingness to accept refugees from Bhutan for resettlement.
While resettlement offers a welcome solution for those who voluntarily choose this option after 17 years in the camps, the UN refugee agency will continue to advocate for the option of voluntary return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to do so.
Since the refugees started arriving in Nepal in the early 1990s, UNHCR has invested more than US$1.7 million in the host areas. Refugees and local communities in eastern Nepal have benefited from more than 1,000 activities in the areas of health, education, infrastructure and capacity building.