2,000 Bhutanese refugees demand repatriationMore than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in various countries under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) third country resettlement programme.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in various countries under the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR) third country resettlement programme. But some the remaining refugees in eastern Tarai are still putting their feet down for repatriation.
Around 2,000 of the remaining 11,000 refugees, put up at various camps in Jhapa and Morang, are refusing the third country resettlement and willing to return their own homeland in Bhutan, according to a source at the UNHCR. The repatriation campaign has come closer to end after the UN body’s resettlement programme. The repatriation campaign has been weakened as the leaders spearheading repatriation themselves opted for third country resettlement. And the majority of the remaining refugees are also in resettlement process, giving up hope of repatriation.
Bhampa Rai, Balaram Poudel, among other refugee leaders, are still campaigning for repatriation, though. They blamed the government of Nepal for its failure to take any initiatives for their cause. “Nepal could neither convince Bhutan to take back refugees nor pressure the international community over the issue,” said Rai, claiming that hundreds of refugees had been forced to choose third country resettlement against their will.
“I still dream of returning home to Bhutan one day. I want to meet my family there,” said Padam Lal Tamang, 61, who had fled to Nepal in 1990, leaving his wife and children behind in Bhutan. According to the UNHCR, 107,000 refugees are already resettled in various host countries, including the US, Australia and Canada. Another batch of around 9,000 refugees are in the process of resettlement, officials at the UNHCR said.
The UNHCR’s third country resettlement programme will come to an end in 2017.
Sources said the government has two alternatives regarding the refugees who do not like to resettle in the third country—repatriation or rehabilitation in Nepal.