Refugee leaders urge UN SG Guterres not to ignore their plight

Three Bhutanese refugee leaders from Nepal have urged the UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres not to ignore the plight of Bhutanese refugees who have been languishing in eastern Nepal since early 1990s.

In a petition signed by chairperson of Bhutanese Refugee Repatriation Representative Committee Dr Bhampa Rai, human rights activist Tek Nath Rizal and Beldangi camp secretary Sanch Hang Subba, the trio appealed Guterres to put pressure on Bhutan to accept those refugees who have been desperately awaiting repatriation back home.

File photo: Dr Bhampa Rai, Tek Nath Rizal and Sanch Hang Subba (L-R)
Dr Bhampa Rai, Tek Nath Rizal and Sanch Hang Subba (L-R)

“We have still a good number of refugees in the camps who would want to be repatriated to their home and hearth in Bhutan,” they said. “We are not mere numbers, we too have a human face. What is sure is that pious declaration alone and mere slip service to human rights and justice will not resolve our problem.”

The trio also requested the Secretary General to stand for the rights of refugees to return to Bhutan, and use the leverage of his office to persuade the international community to press Bhutan for the return of the genuine Bhutanese as a priority human rights issue and in the larger interest of the rule of law.

According to the refugee leaders, the longstanding Bhutanese refugee problem “persists with no sight of solution”.

Their petition further mentioned that the refugees’ rights to be repatriated must be seen at least on the same scale of justice as the rights of those who have chosen the option of resettlement in various third countries.

They also thanked the United Nations through the Secretary General for the humanitarian supports that have been extended to the Bhutanese refugees at a time when the Bhutanese government rejected and abandoned them.

“While the continued and adequate humanitarian assistance is absolutely necessary for those living in the camps to live a dignified life, it is not sufficient to see the end of the problem,” they said.