Thursday, April 26, 2007

Repatriation only solution for refugees

By: Ambar Mainali
WASHINGTON D.C, April 24: Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration at the US State Department, Ellen Sauerbrey said Monday although the US government has expressed its interest to resettle the Bhutanese refugees, repatriation could only provide a durable solution to the protracted crisis.

"The only durable solution will be for people to go home," Sauerbrey told a press briefing at the Foreign Press Center.

Sauerbrey made the remark responding to a query from visiting Nepalese journalists whether the US proposal to resettle 60, 000 Bhutanese refugees was an appropriate one since it would only contribute to weaken the democratic movement in Bhutan.

The visiting journalists expressed doubts that after educated Bhutanese who have been leading the democratic movement from refugee camps in Nepal were resettled in the US under the present plan, the democratic movement in Bhutan could face a serious setback.

Assistant Secretary Sauerbrey said that the proposal to resettle the Bhutanese refugees was made after acknowledging that the problem had remained unsolved for many years.

"It is one of the worst protracted refugee problems in the world," she said adding the US government in the past years mounted pressure on Bhutan to allow the refugees to return home.

The question is how long should you allow people to languish in camps? "We hence wish to contribute towards enabling people to start new lives," Sauerbrey, a former high school teacher said.

She said that the government of Nepal too feels that resettlement of the refugees in the third countries is a good idea.

"After our interest to resettle the refugees, other nations, mainly the European nations have also shown their interest for a third country resettlement of the refugees.

Following the announcement by the US in September last year to resettle the refugees, the refugee leaders have been engaged in hot debates whether the proposal would augur well for the entire refugee community and the future of the democratic movement in Bhutan.

Many of them have expressed their stance that the government of Nepal ought to hold dialogue with Bhutan to resume the verification process for early repatriation.

Although ministerial level talks were scheduled to be held in February this year, the talks were postponed at short notice.

The Bhutanese leaders had expressed their interest to re-open dialogue with Nepal on the refugee stalemate during their interaction with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala in the sidelights of the 14th SAARC Summit held in early April this year. But both the sides have not expedited their interest to hold bilateral talks so far.

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