Two Bhutanese community leaders of Scranton, PA, have got a brief chance to meet and talk to President Obama and Vice-President Joe Biden Friday August 23 at around 5:30 pm in Lackawanna college . Narad Pokhrel, President and Kedar Kafley, Secretary of community organization of Scranton, entered the crowd with a three point agenda for President Obama and managed to submit it crossing the circles of security.
Narad told to BNS, “We had no plan to meet such dignitaries and thought it would not be possible to do in short time. But, I thought it would not be another chance to meet, so I gave a try with the mayor and he soon arranged two tickets for us.”
“We are Bhutanese refugees and we are proud to be here. So on behalf of Bhutanese resettled in all states of US, we like to thank the US government, I said to vice-president Joe Biden”. “He shook hands and gave a hug”, Narad was excited over the phone.
Of the President, Narad shares, “Then I talked to the President Obama for half a minute and thanked him for bringing us here and, also requested him to see our petition. He said he will.”
The duo hand-delivered a three point petition to the presidents, which was prepared overnight by Narayan Sharma Phuyal.
It is reproduced as it is below:
Thousands of Bhutanese refugees continue languishing in the UNHCR administered camps in Nepal, the majority of whom have opted for repatriation to Bhutan and have not thus far accepted the offer of resettlement in any of the resettling countries. While UNHCR considers repatriation as the most preferred solution in refugee situations, it has not been possible so far in the case of Bhutanese refugees despite over-fifteen years of bilateral engagement between host Nepal and refugee-generating Bhutan. An international solution through resettlement sans Bhutan’s involvement has the propensity of sending a wrong message as meaning an endorsement to Bhutan’s refugee policy. We wish to take this opportunity to request you Mr. President to exercise all available diplomatic measures to urge the government of Bhutan to allow return of all willing Bhutanese refugees in Nepal’s camps and those surviving hardships outside the camps back to Bhutan.
A large portion of the total resettled Bhutanese in USA comprises of the elderly and many are semi-literate or even illiterate. Many do not have a working knowledge of the English language. While they are fighting all odds to integrate in the mainstream, they face a real and imminent difficulty to acquire US citizenship. This group has faced historical discrimination in Bhutan. We, on behalf of this group of our people, wish to request you to consider relaxing some of the procedural requirements of the citizenship qualifying test so that this unfortunate group that has been deprived of the protection of citizenship may be enabled to acquire US citizenship and live as proud citizens of this great nation in the rest of their lives.
As stated, resettlement has been a blessing to a huge population of the Bhutanese refugees. That said, it has generated an emotional problem to those families whose family members are divided across continents. While those resettled in other countries can arrange family visits, it is a huge emotional crisis for those whose family members continue to remain inside Bhutan. These families would be truly thankful if measures could be explored to help them effectuate family union by enabling them visit their family members or possibly enable permanent family reunion. We, on behalf of such families wish to request you, Mr. President to kindly explore possible solutions to these concerns bedeviling some of our community members.