It is a matter of pleasure to be here to join with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organization for Migration, the colleagues from Bhutan and with the core-group and all of you to mark this very special occasion –departure of the 40,000th Bhutanese refugee from Nepal. I think it is a great day and the weather has cooperated, as well. I know I speak from the fellow core-group members. When I say the US is proud to work with such a tremendous group of partners to provide a durable solution to our refugees from Bhutan.
When we started the program in 2007, there were 109,000 refugees living in camps of Jhapa and Morang. Most of them had to wait over 15 years in camps, but with no hope of returning to Bhutan. While we continued to press the Government of Bhutan to accept back those citizens who wish to return, we also felt it was important to offer another solution to this problem. I know there were many concerns when the resettlement program begun, most not only among the refugees themselves. It is remarkable that in less than three years, after the first departure, we have resettled 40,000 thousands Bhutanese refugees and another 50,000 expressed interest in resettlement.
Today, this is one of the largest resettlement programs in the world and the US is committed to resettle as many refugees as they wish to get resettled. The success of this program is a tribute to all our partners. Both the UNHCR, which is responsible for referring the refugees, and the IOM, which handles the processing of cases, have done exceptional job. As any one who lives in Nepal knows the logistics of moving 40,000 refugees from remote south east corner of this country, first to Kathmandu and to the countries of their resettlement is daunting test, as I believe.
The IOM has more than made this challenge and its operations are the best operations that I have seen in my thirty years diplomatic business. The US has already accepted over 34,000 refugees and I am happy to say that our domestic agencies report that they are doing well. There are certainly challenges as they adapt to a new country, they appear to be making most of the opportunities.
When we are here to celebrate the success of the resettlement program, I also want to note the continued excellence of the programs to support the refugees who do remain. The Government of Nepal and the UNHCR should be proud of running some of the best refugee camps in the world. They do so with exceptional assistance from key partners like the Lutheran World Federation, Caritas and the Association of Medical Doctors for Asia . Thank you everyone for your care for the refugees.
As more refugees continue to be resettled, I look forward to work with the government, UNHCR and all their partners to implement plans for future of the camps and remaining refugees. Finally and perhaps most importantly to the refugees at this center today, the US is proud to welcome you all to our country. As the grand-son of immigrant myself, I know you continue the long tradition of immigration and I know you will make our country better. Many Americans have and will continue to work to make you enter into the US as smoothly as possible. But please let me be the first American to say “Good Luck” and “Welcome” to the United States.
(This is unedited version of a speech delivered by the US Ambassador to Nepal, Scott H. DeLisi, on December 13, 2010 at program organized at the IOM transit camp, Kathmandu to mark resettlement of the 40,000th Bhutanese from camp)