Tuesday, December 16, 2008

IOM Assists Over 8,000 Bhutanese Refugees to Resettle Abroad

Source: IOM

Nepal - IOM has this year helped over 8,000 ethnic Nepali Bhutanese leave refugee camps in Eastern Nepal and resettle in third countries, including the United States (US), Australia and New Zealand.

This year the US accepted over 7,500 refugees, Australia accepted 365 and 134 were resettled in New Zealand. A smaller number were resettled in Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

More than 105,000 of the refugees, known as Lhotsampas, fled to seven Nepali camps in Jhapa and Morang regions 17 years ago, following Bhutan’s decision to revoke their citizenship and expel them.

Subsequent negotiations to allow them to return to Bhutan failed and in September 2007 the Government of Nepal signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IOM to carry out resettlement activities in Damak, the Nepali town closest to the camps.

These include the processing of cases referred to resettlement countries by UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, as well as the medical screening, cultural orientation and travel arrangements of refugees accepted for resettlement.

IOM opened a sub-office in Damak in December 2007 and now employs over 200 local staff operating in Damak and all seven Lhotsampa camps.

"The pace of the operation is now picking up," says David Derthick, Head of IOM Damak. "Our resettlement numbers have gone from fewer than 100 in 2007 to over 8,000 this year. The decision of whether to opt for resettlement or not is entirely up to the families concerned, but next year we expect to move between 16,000 to 18,000 people," he notes.

While most of the Lhotsampas are expected to resettle in the US, Australia and Canada, several other countries including New Zealand, Norway and the Netherlands have also agreed to resettle some of the refugees.

For more information please contact:

David Derthick
IOM Damak
Tel: +977 98511085
E-mail: dderthick@iom.int

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