The personal and political implications of third-country resettlement and naturalisation for Bhutan’s refugees.
Khem Khadka was only seven when his entire family was evicted from Bhutan in 1991. His family’s eviction, along with that of tens of thousands of others, was a result of the government’s enforcement of the ‘one nation, one people’ policy, and its active opposition to ethnic pluralism. Khadka, like so many others, spent most of his young adult life in refugee camps in Nepal. His hope for a better future was, however, realised in 2007, when the United States and seven other Western countries offered the prospect of third-country resettlement. Even as his parents remained firm in their decision to await repatriation, Khadka immediately declared his interest in third-country resettlement. For him, the possibility of gaining US citizenship was preferable to remaining stateless in a refugee camp in Nepal. Khadka finally made it to North Carolina in the summer of 2009, some two years after the policy of resettlement was first announced.
According to Khadka, his ‘well-defined future’ was made real in September 2014, when he took the Oath of Allegiance to the United States of America and became a citizen for the first time in his life. He believes that it was the beginning of a new chapter for his four-member family. Khadka’s family is now middle class, and he and his wife balance their lives between full-time jobs and raising two kids who are already attending pre-kindergarten school. Khadka works as an assistant department manager at a grocery store and plans on resuming his college education in spring 2015. His wife works both as a waitress and supervisor at a senior’s home.
Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in Himal Southasian. Click here to read remaining part of the piece.