Saturday, November 3, 2007

First planeload of Bhutanese refugees will travel to the US by January, 2008: US official (

A senior US official has said that if all things proceed smoothly, the first planeload of Bhutanese refugees will reach the United States by late January.

Ellen Sauerbrey, the Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, told a news conference, Saturday, in Kathmandu, that officials of Overseas Processing Entity (the International Organisation of Migration in this case) will arrive in Nepal next week to start interviewing the willing refugees.

“At this point, we have around 3000 refugees who have shown interest for resettlement,” she said, adding that the US hopes to process 15,000 refugees for resettlement in the first year and around 20,000 each year from next year.

Although, the US government has said it will resettle around 60,000 Bhutanese refugees, Sauerbrey said there is no limit for the number of refugees who want to choose this option.

Stating that the US government recognises the desire of refugees for repatriation, she added that “the US government has, and will, continue to press the Bhutanese government to allow the repatriation of refugees.”

Sauerbrey who is traveling to Bhutan and India from Nepal said that the international community is keeping a close eye in terms of any efforts by Bhutan to expel any additional people. She said that as a democratising nation, the image of Bhutan will be tarnished if they attempt to expel any further people.

On the issue of security situation in the refugee camps, the US official, who also visited two camps in Beldangi and Goldhap said, “We are pleased to see the level of security in the camps.”

Terming the US initiative to resettle Bhutanese refugees as a humanitarian one, she said that since the problem had been protracted for too many years, the US concluded it was time to offer alternative of resettlement to willing refugees so that they can have educational opportunities, jobs and free life.

She also spoke about the Tibetan refugees. She said the US wants to resettle 5000 Tibetan refugees but understands the sensitivity of Nepal government, which has not agreed with this proposal. “We hope that the day will come when we are able to do that,” she said.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Ellen Sauerbrey, US Ambassador Nancy Powell (extreme left) pose for a photograph after the meeting at the PMs residential office in Baluwatar, Saturday, Nov 03, 07.
Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, US Assistant Secretary of State for...

Sauerbrey met with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala, on Saturday morning to discuss about the refugee resettlement issue. “The Prime Minister made a strong request to the US to continue to press Bhutan for repatriation,” she said, adding that it was no accident that she would be traveling to Bhutan from Nepal.

She said she raised issues like camp security and issue of expediting exit permit for the refugees during her talks with the PM.

She also met with Home Minister, Foreign Minister, government officials and refugee representatives during her stay in Nepal.

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