-  Monday 24 February 2020

UNHCR asks Nepal to allow some Bhutanese refugees to resettle

The UN refugee agency has asked Nepalese government to allow the "most vulnerable" Bhutanese refugees in the eastern part of the Himalayan kingdom to leave for resettlement in third countries.

"Given the current situation in Nepal, UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) believes that resettlement opportunities for some Bhutanese refugees, who have been in the country for the last 15 years, should now be seized," UNHCR spokesman Ron Redmond said.

About 105,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven camps in the eastern region of Nepal since the early 1990s.

They had fled their country after the enforcement of a 1985 Citizenship Act made life difficult for the people of Nepalese ethnicity.

Not a single refugee has returned home despite 15 rounds of inconclusive negotiations on repatriation between the two Governments since 1993. UNHCR had been excluded from talks.

A number of Western countries have recently expressed a strong interest in resettling some of the displaced Bhutanese, while the Bhutan Government had said that it would allow the return of some citizens.

UNHCR said the start of resettlement, along with return of some refugees to Bhutan could "pave the way for a comprehensive approach" to solving "long-standing" situation.

"There are currently some very vulnerable cases submitted for resettlement to third countries, and we would hope that Nepal, which has not yet signed their exit visas, will do so shortly to ease their humanitarian plight," Redmond said.

Tensions are increasing in the camps as the Bhutanese refugees have little hope for the future, according to UNHCR.



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