Non-Bhutanese married to refugees don’t qualify for refugee status : UNHCR


A week after the completion of 12-day long fasting-to-death by 12 women, including a Nepali and two Indian married to exiled Bhutanese demanding refugee status and other facilities, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has clarified that non-Bhutanese women married to Bhutanese refugees will not be accepted as refugees at any cost.

File photo : UNHCR’s Country Representative in Nepal, Stephane Jaquemet (Picture : Vidhyapati Mishra)

Talking to reporters in Beldangi on Tuesday, UNHCR’s Country Representative in Nepal, Stephane Jaquemet, expressed that no Nepalese citizens would be accepted as refugees in Nepali soil, including women married to refugees from Bhutan.

Hinting that the ongoing third country resettlement has motivated some Nepalese and Indian women to refugee camps, Jaquemet also mentioned that such cases have increased in recent years.

“The third country resettlement is meant for Bhutanese refugees, not for Nepali or Indian. The resettling countries will not accept non-Bhutanese for resettlement,” said Jaquemet.

However, children born of those mothers can obtain refugee status, he claimed.

According to him, resettlement for such cases would only be accepted by the resettling country to maintain the family ties on humanitarian grounds. “If they qualify for resettlement, they will be accepted by the resettling country as Nepali or Indian, but not Bhutanese refugees.”


  1. I feel very uncomfortable with these statements. I am not surprised to be honest. Internationally mixed marriages are always problematic and it’s true that only resettlement on humanitarian grounds can be granted.
    But, I somehow do not feel that even that will in a practical sense be supported by these people.

    Also, splitting a family with one parents and his / her children being granted refugee rights as being Bhutanese and the other parent not granting refugee rights will seriously make resettlement more difficult. The children in this case are victims of the situation as it might end up in a split of the family.

    Such policy would be a gross violation of Children’s Rights as advocated by the UN! Also Women’s Rights are at stake here as they are the ones who will face the biggest personal consequences. That too conflicts with UN policy.

    These issues should made very clear and proper solutions advocated to the international community stressing that a humanitarian exception rule is needed. After all, this is by far the largest (and according to the UN most ‘successful’ resettlement program!

  2. This sounds exceptionally logical but it must be implemented in practice not only in theory.Thanks to Mr.Jaquemet for expressing your official-opinions and thanks to BMS for publicizing this news subsequently.

    With Regards,
    Hem Kumar Gurung.

  3. I beleive,Mr.Jaquemet is excatly right according to the protocol of UNHCR.If UNHCR allow every people to be registered as a refugee from Nepal and India,the situation will be horrible with in a month,which mean there will be tens and thousands of people wanting to claim refugees in the camp.

  4. UNHCR Country representative is a responsible person making decision on various refugee issues however,the recent statement reflected against the demand of status by Inidan and Nepali citizens on the ground of marriage to the Bhutanese refugee seem logical and dis balanced as well. I am of the opinion that UNHCR officers implement the policies of the organisation and the outcome is the final solution. First UNHCR is taking care of genuine Bhutanes refugee and there is no such laws that favor non citizen for resettlement.

  5. Dear friends,
    Logical steps of resettlement of Bhutanese Refugee member of the family first, and the reunion process of his/her family from the resettled country afterwards should resolve the isuue and address the concerns expressed by Alice re: Rights of women and children, though temporary family separation is painful and enevitable under such circumstances.
    Mr Jaquemet has been candid about the international law and reality. Obviously, now we learn that the fast decision to fasting was not the best approach, when there were other less painful avenues. With due respect to their courage and sufferings, a little wisdom was needed to be incorporated, which the authorities there must have failed to explain till now. My opinion/advice to the victims: plse Moveon with hope and optimism, respect the law and do not seek shortcuts.
    Dick Chhetri

  6. Ms. Alice – do you think the UNHCR country director is an idiot? He is not stationed in Nepal to grant refugee status to every dick and Harry claiming to be a Bhutanese or Nepali and Indians marrying to Bhutanese. He has a mandate to resolve the crisis. The UN is a humanitarian agency but it doesn’t mean that the agency don’t have policy, requirements and limitations.

    Alice, I think you need to dig little about how refugee and asylum and the family reunification work rather than just making an emotional statement. If you think the US government is playing an influential role, why don’t you ask your government who had already resettled a couple people to take more and you don’t have to spew your venous hatred to the US and Bhutan.

    The UNHCR country director had made the most effective decisions and probably the most wise one. He knows the ground reality and he has to act within the scope of his responsibility. I applaud his bold stand on the grant of refugee status.

  7. Dear friends, Dear Mr. Chhetri,

    I agree. But I disagree about ‘shortcuts’ and lack of wisdom. Hunger striking is an outing of discomfort with earlier made but broken promises. UNHCR is doing a good job, not a great job. They do not count some groups. This is not only about mixed marriage. We all know that there’s a lot more wrong with refugee registration and the percentage of non registered people will grow as more other have been resettled. Therefore non registration is an issue that needs more than just a ‘no’ for an answer to the ones concerned.

    We don’t want to see people fleeing in illegal actions to realize an opportunity for their own better future. What we do want to see is realism in numbers and cases, problems and challenges. So we would be able to find solutions for the problems in stead of just ignoring the effects by refusing refugeeship and not taking care of the ones who were rejected. They too are human beings, they too have a right on a decent life.

    Therefore I would rather see close monitoring and reporting of the whole process and concerned problems in stead of promises to solve them. This operation does not stand on its own. It is presented as a hallmark operation for future resettlement projects. If we become careless and less critical we will in the end create suffering in stead of taking it away.


  8. Mr Stephane Jaquemet may be right and itz pleasant to the ears to read the statement aloud “The third country resettlement is meant for Bhutanese refugees, not for Nepali or Indian”.To me this makes exceptionally sense But i have a strong reservation to this statement Mr Jaquemet, Dont u think itz too late to come up with this logic.UNCHCR is a well esteemed UN body and i believe it had this working protocol.If so,why was this not in place before anybody got resettled? This would have definitely brought everybody on the same page from the scratch.Now,when so many such cases have already resettled, bringing such statements bring confusion with the working yardstick of UNHCR.To me, it seems harsh.Itz absolutely true that the ongoing third country resettlement has motivated some Nepalese and Indian women to refugee camps.I strongly feel that at this point of time, a milder benchmark can be adopted like accepting marriages before 2007 or 2008(the year the resettlement process started)for resettlement. Anyways, this is my personal perception and i am not an expertise on the issue.But in nutshell, the bottomline is that some stringent measures need to be adopted to curb any malpractices robbing genuine bhutanese the oppurtunity of making a place their home.

  9. Exactly Dick Chettri dai, they can always come through re-union procedure. Hunger strike was forceful; and the captain of Punya Foundation was trying to advocate this issue without realizing the gravity of the issue. Women are cauragous no doubts however their methods was forceful; only solution for them would be sending thier spouse for the resettlement and joining them later through re-union.

  10. This is a humanitarian issue. Bunch of Nepalese and Indians claiming to be bhutanese refugee is another corrupt ideas incorporated in South Asia. Do you ever imagine this people would claim they were refugees if third country resettlement was not in the table. UNHCR clearly knows that these are the people who stayed as Indian and Nepali citizen and now they see better future they are rushing to do so by anymeans. In other words why not hunger strike.yes there are genuine refugees married to nepali or Indian people but we have seen most of them have made it to US or other countries. UNHCR is resettling genuine refugees. These new people claiming themselves as refugess are bunch of corrupt Nepali/indian origin people.

  11. I appreciated Mr.Jaquemet,UNCHR’s representative to his right point of decession,and still my advice to victims is:Don’t create a panic situation when there is many ways to reunion family.Just wait a year or more,if you realy love your husband and children.You will be easily re-union through the proces of spouse relationship after your husband has been resettled to sponsored country.But make sure to have marriage certificate. Be brave!this is the only solution instead of meaningless fasting.

  12. At least Lotus Flower (sangay letho ) know the fact that UNHCR does not easily register any other nationality as Bhutanese Refugee. At least you learn some good information from Mr Stephane Jaquemet statements.

    Keep on updating your knowledge, so that one day you will understand the real situation of Our Souther folks (Lhotshampa), and the brutality and cruelty of our fourth king JSW.

    See you some time in Thimphu!

  13. I could sense the weight of the decision but many families with similar cases has been resettled. Either of the spouses was non-Bhutanese. And the couple with non-Bhutanese partner filed their cases as ‘single’ that were not having their offspring and with the ones with children claimed as ‘family’ but the non-Bhutanese side was declared as ‘disappeared’ or ‘unknown’. Having had many cases it would have been an ideal situation had the rule of law was applied uniformly.
    Within the limitations, if such people do not qualify for TCR and given the recognition of Bhutanese refugee status, they may qualify for the other options of durable solutions. I’m sure that after the phase out of TCR, local integration with certain packages may help to sustain their future livelihood.
    There may be certain penalties which absentees need to face due to their negligence but totally limiting them may not be the solution.

  14. To all scholars,
    According to my view,UNHCR is for helping hungry people who are in need not to feed for hunger strike people,oviously they are there to help refugees from different unfortunate calamities including political problems.I percept,UNHCR is devoted to help refugees not to make people refugees.We, Bhutanese, regretted and feel sorrows being refugees,whereas some people from our neighbour countries rejoice and pray to god for having refugee status.This could be very strange but its true.Marraiges before the TCR would have some respect and values but after the beginning of TCR,there have been various queries and personel economic interest rather than family interest.

  15. UNHCR has boldly stated that unhcr is not allowing the nepali or indian women who were married to a bhutanese refugee it seems unhcr is doing unfair justice. Again unhcr had not spoken on the issues of non registered ones and refugees suspended their ration and unable to attend the photo identification ( absentees)time due to several problems of the refugees. UNHCR is requested to consider the request made by the refugees, and some one spoke that the demand made through hunger strike was supported by Punya Foundation , that gentleman is a fool or well established guy who is against the cause of the bhutanese refugee and must be an active agent of the govt. of bhutan.UN advocating for the justise of women and children should see the degree of the issue . sure our people in the camp had not on hunger strike just to opt for TCR but they were fighting for thair rights.I am sure UNHCR will under stand the demand of the rufugees and solve the issue forever.

  16. Hey Lotus Flower/ Firstly be aware that Ms. Alice is not an American on which you have stated a main theme of your statement. Try to research before writing something man. And secondly, Jaquemet’s statement is not totally write or favorable to the Bhutanese Refugees. This statement exactly reflects the Seven Categories framed by the Bhutanese Kingship Government previously. Favoring Jaquemet’s statement do you have an answer on the subject that who were Nepali and Indian by citizenship but married to Bhutanese Refugees. Every women has a right of choice and prevail as her husband’s spouse allover the world.
    However it may be correct that women married to Nepali and Indian spouses could be considered as respective countries citizens where they are married.

  17. I think Hari is ignorant of the fact that UNHCR does not have its rights to declare people of a particular nation “REFUGEES” when they are not even recognized as an Internally Displaced People (IDP) by that country.Marraige connection to refugee spouses does not legalized thier bulk entry to refugee status. Same people who were avoiding, infact hating to call themself refugees in 90s until 2005 are now attracted to call themselves refugees. For what reason? Clearly for TCR!. I know some of the genuine Bhutanese folks will feel insult with this comments. But be bold, Call Apple and Apple but not Organge. These women,although I respect their caurage, should understand that they can always join thier spouses when their partners complete one year of their resettlement. Punya Foundation, beaware, dont cross your bylaws limitation!

  18. Reading the various comments, I feel that the general opinion is pretty consistent albeit articulated in different ways. Everyone wants genuine refugees to get resettlement opportunity and start life afresh. UNHCR Nepal Head has correctly given his opinion even it does seem to appear in line with the 7 category of citizens introduced by the power hungry racist bureaucrat-politicians of tiny Bhutan. But we must also remember that even after two decades Nepal still officially categorises Bhutanese exiles as Asylum seekers. It is always difficult to perceive the thoughts and opinions of bureaucrats and politicians anywhere who take decisions in the comfort of their offices for the people who suffer everyday of their lives. Besides, we all know how categorical can Nepal be politically!
    But it seems all are missing the wood for the forest. We should be more anxious that all genuine Bhutanese Exiles and their families get resettled and it’s for the concerned agencies to decide how. So let them carry out the exercise and deal with the problem real quickly, supported by people who can influence opinion in our favour.
    We do know that some westerners were instrumental in swaying international opinion in Bhutan’s favour after being entertained with clandestinely lavish hospitality. Therefore it’s logical that many among refugees are wary of persons like Alice who are genuinely concerned of the refugees’ plight. We should be appreciative that there are few people like her who can help and get UNHCR (the right body ) to draw a line on a cut off date and re-registering genuine refugees (and theirs non-refugee spouses) in the camps.
    Lets all pray that every Bhutanese (and their families) get to resettle and start their life afresh.
    And, I am also happy that some people in Bhutan do realise the 4th king JSW’s follies and hope to see us back in Thimphu (which is what we really wish too).

  19. Dear friends,
    Do not be so aggressive. contemplate upon the trends as you all know that more than 100 such cross marriage cases have already been resettled or have been as well approved by resettlement countries. They value human and child rights more than what they have to say. Let us not justify or advocate more than needed.
    Wish you all Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
    Hari Dhakal

  20. Hey you all, You’re being very foolish! It’s all fools’ cry! What UNHCR has concluded is not one dictator’s decission. Mr Stephane Jaquemet here is just a UNHCR representative speaking as one person, but he is speaking not his personal decission but he is speaking whole UNHCR’s decission.This is not just his sole decission.This decission has come through century of UNHCR’s hands-on ground experience from different parts of the world and UN’s rule of law. There are already laws in place in third countries to address such issues. These 3rd countries are not gonna change their laws just to suit Bhutanese refugees alone. The solution is “Family reunion.” One who gets resettled will need to work hard a little bit, with patience and sponsor the remaining family, and try for humaniterian visa as much as possible at 1st or go for dependent visa application as is the case nowadays with Afgan refugees, African refugees, Middle Eastern refugees. You have to exercise what option we have in hand, not just argue for nonsense.
    UNHCR is not just like crazy so-called Bhutanese refugee leaders who have no qualifications and public qualities to be leader, no understanding of human rights, They are simply clever foxes who sell the name of refugees to rise for their personal benifits.There is no single true Bhutanese refugee leader, all those so-calleds are the crazy clever greedy foxes who sell the words like Bhutan, Bhutanese refugees to rise themselves. That’s all.
    Good luck!

  21. Refugees leaders: they came with their countrymen in the exile. They wrote several articles and books on the atrocities perpetuated by the KJSWs and its coterie. They suffered togther with the fellowrefugees. They sacrificed thier high ranking jobs in Bhutan. They seriously advocated for the cause of the refuges. As a result atleast we have now TCR. So what the monsterous hell are you talking about you TOYOTACAMBRY.

    King and its Ministers: They raped poor villagers in the 90s. They looted all the properties of the villagers. They destroyed all the houses of the villagers. They terrorized all the villagers. They allowed only NGALONG culture to florished and exterminated all other cultures. They have done mass genocides. So you TOYOTACAMBRY… you desearve to be placed below the wheels of the both CAMBRY and TOYOTA.

  22. I hope people do get around to reading this.

    If you are a refugee and married to another person then it is not necessary that you are also a refugee to apply. That is how thousands have resettled already!

    A refugee is a refugee, whereas the wife of a refugee can always be attached to the application regardless … of whether she is phulmati, kumati or Gitani…meaning whether she is Indian, Nepali or American.

    How come they protested for refugee status??

    The protests received support for political reasons. So why not applaud the ones who gave support. Lata ko desh ma gada tanderi..bajya haru

    The discussion has gone to lengths with a lack of detail but only has altruistic slogans for and against the UNHCR.

    Jai UNHCR

  23. SURUWAT captain, how is your movie work going on? You need audiance and so do I in the near future for our movie show. So be cautious in your comments. We need all Indian and Nepali nationals in the US for our commercial movie show. hahahaahahha

    Bhulne po ho keee

  24. Hello, Foot Hills Of Himalayas, “Kaam garnay Hanuman, pagari guthnay dhedu”!!!
    TCR isnt achieved by fake refugee leaders ok, it came from UNHCR even without the knowledge of these fake leaders. Simply because a/c to UNHCR’s law any refugees more than 15 yrs are categorised as highly vulnerable, thats y UN with 3rd countries faound us solution.
    And these fake leaders didnt come with their countrymen, but they used all innocent people for their survival, they prayed on them as predators. They did biggest mistake to demonstrate for democracy in Bhutan without public awareness, without prior preparation and consultation, they bombed Bhutan’s development! No where on Earth can be found such silly so-called fake leaders who always use words ”refugee, Bhutan, human rights, etc etc for their vested interest.
    They deserve the punishment they got from Btn govt, if they didnt deserve it, y cant they go to int’l court now to bring bhutan to justice?? what has stopped them now!!!!
    “Kaam garnay Hanuman, pagari guthnay dhedu”!!! Tyati sajilo 6aina sathi, janta aaba lato 6aina!!!