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Bhutanese refugees still want to return to Bhutan

Posted by Ann Corcoran on July 1, 2013

There appears to be a new push on to pressure the Bhutanese government to take back some of the people of Nepalese origin that they booted out of the country more than two decades ago.

In its infinite wisdom, the UNHCR with the blessing of the US (and the resettlement contractors hankering for a new batch of clients), which took the largest number of Bhutanese/Nepalese refugees over the  last five years, dispersed the camp populations living in Nepal to the “four winds.”  It seems a little late for a renewed effort to pressure world governments to in turn pressure Bhutan, but some 10,000 or so refugees who refused resettlement, have renewed their clamor to “go home.”

Here is a short piece, hat tip Ralph.  And, below is a link to a New York Times opinion piece from Friday on the same topic.

DAMAK, June 29: The Bhutanese refugees residing in different camps in eastern Nepal have asked the Nepal government to keep their repatriation mission open.

Some 10,000 refugees have expressed their willingness to return to their home in Bhutan.

Forced into resettlement by donor agencies.  Who could that be I wonder?

In the memo, the Committee has claimed that different donor agencies have forced the Bhutanese refugees for third country resettlement.


Journalist and filmmaker Vidhyapati Mishra

Read also, ‘Bhutan is no Shangri-La'(but we want to go back anyway!) written by Vidhyapati Mishra at the New York Times.

Mishra describes how his family lived in Bhutan for several generations but had to leave everything behind when the government of Bhutan decided two decades ago to expel the people of Nepalese origin.

Frankly, to this day, I don’t know why it became the responsibility of the US to wholesale remove these people from that part of the world and get them meatpacking jobs scattered across America (or worse a job at 7-Eleven in St. Louis).   If we had to get involved could we not have used our enormous economic pressure on these two countries—Bhutan and Nepal—to work this out among themselves!

Here is some of what Mr. Mishra says (obviously still holding out hope that they can go back to Bhutan)  Hat tip: Joanne:

We were among the 90,000 Bhutanese refugees who flooded shelters in eastern Nepal at that time. The population grew to more than 115,000, as people kept trickling in and children were born. My parents, a brother and I have called these shelters our home for 21 years.

The original seven refugee camps have shrunk to two, but almost 36,000 people continue to live in misery here. More than 80,000 have been resettled in other countries; 68,000, including my wife, most of my siblings and extended family, have moved to the United States. I expect to be able to join them very soon.

Helping us, though, is not the same as helping our cause: every refugee who is resettled eases the pressure on the Bhutanese government to take responsibility for, and eventually welcome back, the population it displaced.

Bhutan became a constitutional monarchy in 2008, two years after King Jigme Singye Wangchuck abdicated the throne to his eldest son. To live up to its promises of democracy and its reputation as a purveyor of happiness, the government must extend full civil rights — including citizenship and the right to vote — to all of the Lhotshampa still in its borders. It also must allow those Lhotshampa it expelled to return.

Instead, Bhutan has steadfastly ignored our demands; multiple rounds of talks between Bhutan and Nepal over the status of the Lhotshampa have yielded little progress.

The international community can no longer turn a blind eye to this calamity. The United Nations must insist that Bhutan, a member state, honor its convention on refugees, including respecting our right to return.

Other countries bear responsibility, too.

The UN still needs to explain why they have a double standard.   How can the Palestinians still demand a right to return (after six decades), but the Bhutanese were scattered around the world after only two.

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