Thursday, October 16, 2008

Non-Druks seek to resettle in West


BELDANGI (JHAPA), Oct 17 - Facilitating settlement in western countries of Nepali nationals posing as Bhutanese refugees who no longer live in camps has become a lucrative business for some here lately, police said.

On Sunday, police arrested Amrita Darji, 30, a Bhutanese refugee in Beldangi, Jhapa, on a charge of forgery. She has confessed to police she received Rs 100,000 in initial payment for helping one Mukti Dahal, a Nepali national, fill a resettlement form, posing as her missing brother Raha Darji.

''Of the Rs 225,000 promised her, she had received Rs 100,000," said Inspector Mahesh Bista of the Armed Police Force at Beldangi. Dahal and two other Bhutanese accomplices -- Kiran Gurung and Bikram Gurung -- are still at large.

Some western countries including the United States are resettling the Bhutanese refugees. So far, 5,000 have been resettled, mostly in the United States, while 57,000 have applied for resettlement.

Inspector Bista said that a powerful racket seems to be involved in this business. "But very little can be said with certainty until Kiran and Bikram Gurung are arrested," said Inspector Bista. "From this [Darji's] arrest, we understand this type of activity is going on secretly in the refugee camps," he added.

According to Ram Bhandari, a former camp management official at Beldangi Camp -2, both the camp management committee and the Refugee Coordination Unit (RCU) set up by the government have to certify a person as a Bhutanese refugee before a resettlement form is processed.

RCU official Khem Raj Khanal and Beldagi Camp-2 management committee secretary Narad Mani Sanyasi denied having certified Dahal as a Bhutanese refugee.

When asked about this, Bimal Khatri, UNHCR public relations officer at Damak, said police are investigating the case and the truth will come to light only after the investigation is wrapped up.

Darji's case is not an isolated one in the refugee camps, according to Ram Bhandari.

Only five months ago, when Pasang Lama, 32, of Beldangi Camp-2 returned to Nepal after spending two years in a monastery in Sikkim, he was shocked to see the photo of an unknown person in the resettlement form filled in his name.

According to him, around 1,000 Bhutanese refugees have gone missing from the seven UNHCR-run refugee camps. He said some of them had joined the Maoist insurgency in Nepal and others were settled in remote parts of Nepal and India.

Over 108,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in the seven UNHCR-run refugee camps in Jhapa and Morang districts after being evicted from Bhutan in the 1990s.

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