Sunday, December 14, 2008

Refugees’ Nepali spouses face resettlement hurdles

Kumar Luintel, Damak, December 13:
Bhutanese refugees who have married Nepalis say they are uncertain whether they could be resettled in a third country or not.

Family members of Sunita Bhujel, a Nepali girl married to a refugee, are uncertain whether she would be settled in a third country like genuine refugees who have been living in the camps for about two decades. “I am keen to settle in a third country but the process for the same has not been initiated yet,” she said.

Khem Adhikari, a refugee health worker married to a Nepali girl, is also uncertain whether his wife could go with him. He is worried for the future of his family if his wife could not accompany him to a new country. Many Nepalis who have tied nuptial knot with the refugees are worried that they might be barred from going abroad with their refugee spouses. “We did not marry hoping to settle abroad. Our marriage took place before International Office for Migration started preparations for resettling refugees in third countries,” Khem said.
Since the Bhutanese refugees have been staying in the camps for the past 18 years, they are in close contact with Nepalis.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees does not recognise outsiders married to Bhutanese youths as refugees. Those married to refugees are not provided with food the refugees are entitled to.

TR Gurung, secretary at Beldangi Refugee camp, said, “It has not been clearly stated what happens to the refugee youths married to Nepalis.”

“Keeping a record of such cases has been initiated,” Basanta Raj Puri, contact officer deployed by the home ministry to distribute identity cards to the refugees said, adding, “Such couples may face hurdles for their resettlement at the moment but those enlisted under ‘note of concern’ will be dealt with later.” Puri said the government had agreed to initiate a process for this group of refugees.

A total of 7,661 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in third countries so far. Of them, 7,090 have been settled in the USA alone.

At least 63,000 refugees have applied for third country resettlement.

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