The Government of Nepal, in coordination with UN refugee agency, has decided to ´consolidate´ seven Bhutanese refugee camps into two within the next two years.
Officials at Home Ministry said the decision was taken as over 40,000 Bhutanese refugees, who were living in various camps in the country´s eastern region have already left for third country settlement and more are in the process to leave the camps, Republica daily wrote on Friday from Kathmandu.
Home Ministry Spokesperson Jaya Mukunda Khanal said they will merge the refugee camps of Goldhap, Timai and Khudunabari in 2011 and the ones in Beldangi II and III the following year. “The plan is to have only two refugee camps — Beldangi and Shanischare — by the end of 2012,” he said.
Khanal, who also heads the National Unit for the Coordination of Refugee Affairs, said local administration and UNHCR office have already been asked to facilitate the consolidation process, added the daily.
Officials said the families that would be affected by the consolidation of camps in Goldhap, Timai and Khudunabari will continue to receive support through development activities carried out with assistance from UN agencies.
The government plans to use the open areas left beindafter the evacuation for plantation.
The UN refugee agency with the support of International Organisation for Migration started third country resettlement program in 2007 after repeated round of dialogues between Nepal and Bhutan failed to resolve the crisis.
A total 43,132 refugees have left for third country settlement to eight countries as of February 15. Of them, 36,722 chose to settle in the US and 2,469 to Canada. Likewise, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark and UK have accepted 2,208, 552, 373, 468 and 111, respectively.
Some 70,000 refugees are currently living in the refugee camps. “About 75 percent of them have expressed willingness to be settled in a third country,” said a Home Ministry official.