‘No change in policy’ on Bhutanese refugeesA senior CPN (Maoist Centre) leader and former deputy prime minister and foreign minister has said that the incumbent government and his party stand by Nepal’s existing policy on Bhutanese refugees that only accepts repatriation and resettlement as viable options.
A senior CPN (Maoist Centre) leader and former deputy prime minister and foreign minister has said that the incumbent government and his party stand by Nepal’s existing policy on Bhutanese refugees that only accepts repatriation and resettlement as viable options.
Narayan Kaji Shrestha’s statement contradicts the position of former prime minister KP Sharma Oli, who had adopted a three-pronged approach, including softening of stance on local assimilation, once other options are exhausted.
“Our emphasis is on maximum third-country resettlement and repatriation of those who want to go back to their country of origin,” said Shrestha, also the chief of Maoist Centre’s foreign relations department, who regularly advises Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal on foreign policy issues.
Shrestha had briefed PM Dahal on Saturday morning as well ahead of the prime minister’s meeting with UNHCR Representative in Nepal Kevin Allen.
A press note issued by the Prime Minister’s Secretariat said Dahal and Allen dwelt on the fate of the remaining Bhutanese refugees.
“Efforts are underway to address the problem of remaining Bhutanese refugees,” the note quoted Allen as telling Dahal, stopping short of offering details.
A government official present in the meeting said that Allen raised the issue of local solutions citing funding shortages to indefinitely maintain humanitarian support to the remaining refugees.
According to RSS, while appreciating the UNHCR’s concerns towards resolving Bhutanese refugee issues, PM Dahal, during his meeting with Allen, urged the global body to facilitate the efforts aimed at addressing Bhutanese refugee issue.
UNHCR officials say with multiple conflicts displacing people across the world, the funding priority of donors is increasingly on emergency operation.
On June 20, this paper had reported former prime minister Oli’s new strategy on Bhutanese refugees.
“After pursuing first two options, the remaining refugees will be given a local solution and they won’t be allowed to remain stateless,” Bishnu Rimal, chief political adviser to former PM Oli had quoted him as saying. “Oli wants the long-running saga of Bhutanese refugees to come to an end.”
“As a matter of policy, we can’t accept local assimilation,” said Shrestha. “It will open a Pandora’s box.”
But he did indicate that the government could look into individual cases on practical grounds where refugees have married locals.
Shrestha also said that the issue of local assimilation was brought before him when he was the foreign minister and that he had rejected it.
When asked about former prime minister Oli’s softening of position on local assimilation, Shrestha said he was unaware of the changes during Oli’s tenure.
Nepal has hosted over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since early 1990s.