Monday, March 24, 2008

Finding a new life in alien land


By Indra Adhikari

On the day Bhutan goes to historic polls to transform its absolute monarchy into a constitutional one, a group of Bhutanese refugees taking asylum in Nepal for the last 18 years nervously waits to set out for third country resettlement.

In Bhutan, it is the beginning of a new system, and for refugees here it is the beginning of new life in new countries.

On March 24, International Organization of Migration (IOM) and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced in Kathmandu that they had formally began taking Bhutanese refugees to third countries for resettlement as per their wish.

The resettlement process has begun amidst opposition from a few 'communist groups' within the refugee community announcing their intention to initiate armed rebellion inside Bhutan to overthrow the despotic monarchy there.

UNHCR country representative for Nepal Daisy Dale said despite the beginning of the third country resettlement of the Bhutanese refugees, the international community and the UNHCR will continue to advocate for the right of the refugees to repatriate to their homeland once the situation becomes conducive.

"Repatriation is the first priority," she said adding, "Failing to see any progress in repatriation process, resettlement has become a rescue for finding solution of the protracted crisis."

While some of the refugees complained that they were warned not to make any inquiry regarding their education, as they leave it in the middle of the session, UNHCR chief in Nepal said arrangements will be made for education of the refugee children.

Out of seven members in the core group expressing their interest to resettle the refugees, only two countries - United States and New Zealand - have began taking the refugees. Australia is expected to begin the process sometime soon.

Editor of Kathmandu based Bhutan News Service T. P. Mishra said majority of the refugees are complaining of unclear process of selecting refugee families for interviews.

Former country representative of the UNHCR Abraham Abraham had said refugees will be called for interviews on first come first serve basis according to the date they file their interest papers to the UNHCR. However, Mishra said it has not been so and that the refugees have not been able to make an informed choice on resettlement.

IOM chief in Kathmandu David Derthick, however, says that it is the UNHCR that decides who will be going to which country.

US government officials while visiting refugee camps last year had hinted that 60,000, the number of refugees they want to take for resettlement, would not include those who are involved in "armed groups". Yet, the government has not spoken anything about those having records of human rights violations. Accordingly, Hari Bangale, then secretary of Belgandi camp-2, because of who two refugees lost their life last year in Beldangi camp, was the first to be flown to US under resettlement.

Some 100 refugees have already left Nepal in the last three months. Media persons and other visitors were strictly barred from meeting those refugees on grounds of security and protection policies.

This week another 120 refugees will fly for third country resettlement. IOM plans to send at least 1,500 individuals in a month. By the end of 2009, half of the total population proposed by the US will find their shelters in the new countries.

While it's been widely accepted that resettlement would not give permanent solution to the crisis, the relocation of refugees is believed to give relief to UNHCR and Nepal being burdened for the last two decades.

1 comment:

Hazi said...

This is going great, but the resellement process must be fair for refugess in context of choosing country.
Good luck to you guys.
See u in US.
And remember one thing, there are so called organisations in US which says that they represent Bhutanese In America. Those are people who left us in camps in pain, poverty and went abroad to earn. Never trust these guys. These are opportunist.