Saturday, December 8, 2007

Refugee camps to remain: Abraham


Representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Nepal, Abraham Abraham, has said that UNHCR will not pull out of the Bhutanese refugee camps but will continue working for those not opting for third country resettlement.

"Refugees who don't want third country settlement will continue receiving assistance as long as we receive aid from donors," said Abraham talking to the Post on Friday.

"Every single refugee counts for the UNHCR. We are recommending third country settlement only because there is no (immediate and feasible) solution to the refugee problem," he said.

Expressing concern over misinformation in the refugee camps, Abraham said, "It absolutely depends on individual choice. You can even board the plane and come back out saying you now want to stay behind," he added.

Abraham also said that the resettlement may go on for six or seven years depending on the response from the refugees and it is up to the refugees themselves to choose if and when they want to go to third countries.

The UNHCR representative refuted allegations that the government's failure to issue exit permits for the refugees is delaying the resettlement process. "The matter has been discussed at higher levels. It is already an agreed matter," he said.

He further said there would be no discrimination against those suffering from communicable diseases. They will receive medical treatment first so

that they don't transmit

disease to others during the journey, he said. "HIV positives too are eligible for resettlement," he said.

On the fate of the refugees in the third country, Abraham said government officials and non-government agencies would receive them in the new country and they will get residence, education and all sorts of care, as well as help in finding jobs. "And you can also choose to go back to Bhutan any time when the situation there gets better," he said.

Abraham, among other things, also clarified that enough care has been taken not to split refugee families. "We want the families to be together. We won't split them."

He confirmed that the first batch of refugees would be resettled in the USA by the end of January.

There are over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees languishing in the seven UNHCR-run camps in Morang and Jhapa districts ever since they were evicted from Bhutan in the1980s and early 1990s. The UN body is currently working to resettle them in Australia, the United States and other Western countries.

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