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Nepal: UNHCR deeply concerned by camp incidents, appeals for calm

Briefing notes

Nepal: UNHCR deeply concerned by camp incidents, appeals for calm

29 May 2007 Also available in:

We are deeply concerned over violent incidents in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal in which two refugees have died and others been injured during clashes which started Sunday and we appeal for calm to be restored immediately. We are saddened by the death of the refugees. The clashes started Sunday in Beldangi II refugee camp in Jhapa district between groups of refugees with differing opinions over third country resettlement. Police intervened to curb the violence and to maintain law and order. The situation remains tense, and a curfew imposed by government authorities, starting Monday in all seven camps, is still in force. We are reviewing our daily presence in the camps until the situation stabilises.

High Commissioner António Guterres, who has just returned from a five-day mission to both Nepal and Bhutan last week, had during his visit to Goldhap camp told the refugees who have been in camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s, that they had the freedom to chose whether to resettle, and urged refugees to respect others freedom of choice. Guterres assured the refugees that he would make every effort to ensure that as many doors as possible would be opened in terms of a lasting solution to their plight, including voluntary repatriation.

During his mission the High Commissioner met with the prime ministers of Nepal and Bhutan and other high level government officials, as well members of the international community and UN agencies.

In Nepal, the High Commissioner discussed the situation of the 107,000 refugees in the seven camps in the country and the urgent need to find solutions to their plight. He welcomed the constructive approach of the Nepalese government in allowing resettlement to go ahead as soon as possible following the generous offer of a core group of countries (the United States, Canada, Denmark, Norway, Australia, New Zealand and Netherlands) to offer more than 60,000 resettlement places. An understanding was also reached with the Nepalese authorities for exit visa procedures to be simplified to ease resettlement processing.

In Bhutan, the High Commissioner had a frank and comprehensive discussion with the government on all issues concerning the refugees. He took note of the government's concerns but expressed his deep belief that the window of opportunity provided by the core group countries through the resettlement places being made available must be seized upon and that all parties concerned must contribute towards resolving this protracted situation. The High Commissioner was also reassured by the Bhutanese government that the current rumour concerning the possible expulsion of the population in the south is totally groundless and the democratic process currently underway in Bhutan is inclusive of all citizens in the country regardless of ethnic groups.