Dilip Dahal was just twelve years when his family fled from home in Tsirang (Chirang) Bhutan in 1991. After twenty seven years he flew to Kathmandu, November 2015, to attend a high-level meeting to mark the resettlement of 100,000 refugees in US and other eight countries that accepted to resettle the Bhutanese refugees camped in eastern Nepal.
Dilip and his family arrived in Clarkston, Georgia in 2008 after US initially committed to allow at least 60000 of the Bhutanese refugees to resettle. The first job he got in the US was housekeeping. Today he owns two gasoline and convenience stores, his business growing ever since he owned a grocery store in Clarkston just around the corner of apartments where many Bhutanese and Burmese families were put to by resettlement agencies.
Dilip worked in local farmer’s market before taking the job of store manager at this Asian Grocery that he bought later to try his own luck for business.
Being a successful entrepreneur, Dilip engaged in community organization of Georgia, played roles in forming OBCA (Organization of Bhutanese Community in America) and gave back to community by sponsoring many community events. He was elected to Vice-president of OBCA in its fifth annual convention held in Fort Worth, Texas, June 2015. The convention was attended by UNHCR Nepal’s head Mr Craig Sanders.
Dilip had no any idea of this leadership role he would assume when he started his primary education in Green Vale Academy of Beldangi I back in 1992. Nor had he dreamt of meeting the prime minister of that host country, let alone the dignity and pride of being the US citizen. He even could not surmise how the life in US would be for his family when the plan for resettlement was floated in camps. Like many other literate youths, Dilip was in favor of resettlement, yearning to break away from the stalemate of camp life.
OBCA was invited to attend the 100,000th mark of resettlement in Kathmandu. At an event held November 9, 2015 in Shangrila Hotel, Dilip represented the success story of resettlement in the US, while Devi Maya represented that dubious happiness of being the one-hundred thousandth refugee to fly to Ohio State of the US. As the vice-president of OBCA, Dilip Dahal met Prime Minister and President of Nepal, UNHCR country representative, US Ambassador to Nepal, IOM Chief of Mission in Nepal and other Nepalese officials
He wrote to BNS, “OBCA felt it was imperative to thank the government of Nepal for providing shelter to the Bhutanese refugees for more than two decades and ultimately opening doors for their resettlement.”
Besides extending thanks to the Government of Nepal for generously hosting Bhutanese refugees, OBCA presented souvenirs to the President and Prime Minister of Nepal as symbol of gratitude.
Though success has been counted in terms of hard figures -one hundred thousand refugees- life is not a bed or roses for those who made this journey to the west. In the US, the suicide rate of Bhutanese is among the highest; the number strike to fifty-eight odd loss of life. Several have been killed in car accidents while going to work. Domestic rift has widened, some facing charges of domestic violence. And, many state based community organizations are bracing up with appropriate tools and methods to prevent such maladies befalling upon common lots.
It’s time Nepal government chalk out a meaningful plan to provide best alternative to the camp life for those who have not shown interest in resettlement yet and to those who espouse repatriation with honor and dignity. The then government of Nepal which helped opening the refugee camp in the bank of river Kankai in Jhapa in the early 1991, should now close refugee camp with appropriate package of hope for sustainable means of living for those remaining refugees. And, UNHCR and IOM should facilitate the process of ending this long festering humanitarian issue in south Asia to its safe landing.
(Courtesy: Dilip Dahal)