Dear Mr. Khanal,
First of all, please acknowledge my congratulations for being elected as the 34th Prime Minister of Nepal after ending the seven-month long uncertainty and vacuum for a powerful government. With your election to the executive post, all Nepali citizens have started dreaming of the safe-landing of the ongoing peace process and unveiling new statute on time. At this juncture, I am happy to convey to your government that more than 75,000 of Bhutanese refugees, who have been spending their most precious time in ramshackle huts since 19 years in the eastern region of Nepal to which you also belong to and over 40,000 resettled in various countries, have also freshly renewed their hope that their issue would get a due attention in your official tenure.
Dear sir, when I am writing this letter to draw your attention towards the long-standing Bhutanese refugee issue, I must remind you about your commitment towards the ongoing democratic struggle of the Bhutanese citizens, which you had expressed during a meeting with President of the Druk National Congress, Rongthong Kunley Dorji, in last September at your residence, where I was also present. Therefore, I expect that your government would try its level best to understand expectations and sufferings of the Bhutanese people, who shall ever remain indebted for all possible supports from the government and people level.
Apparently, the ongoing third country resettlement process has transformed the whole refugee-scenario and its related aspects. Those refugees, who have already availed this opportunity, have thanked everyone involved in the process including the Government of Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. However, it is not that every resettled Bhutanese is doing well or happy to be away from Nepal. Besides, a significant number of refugees want to wait in camps for repatriation, without choosing to get relocated at any cost. They want to go back to their hometowns as dignified returnees from Nepali soil and need a congenial environment for their return. Specifically, this group of refugees expects a lot from you and wants your government to open the actual doors for repatriation either by resuming the installed bilateral talks or internationalizing the issue at the earliest.
It is obvious that every change in government of a host country renews the refugees’ hope to go home with dignity and honour. And, so is the case this time as well. All previous governments assured these people that their issue would be addressed with a top priority. However, the refugees have been forced to satisfy with mere assurances at the end, and without making them feel that the governments have heard their genuine concerns. As what has been advocated by refugee leaders, it would be an appreciating step if your government could form a separate body to handle the refugee problem in Nepal so that the spirit doesn’t fade way as the government changes.
Dear sir, as over 40,000 fellow-countrymen enhance their economic status after resettlement in various resettlement countries, around 3100 asylum seekers from Bhutan have been forced to pass their days without food and facilities, as enjoyed by their friends and relatives, since they lack official recognition due to various reasons. Repeatedly, the local authority assured them of their refugee status and ration, but noting has been turned into action yet. It is well known to you that these people need urgent registration as it is not wise to keep them without any status. They have neither demanded of nationality nor want extra supports. But, they just want their status recognized so that they would be able to enjoy any of the three options –repatriation, resettlement and local integration – independently. There, I pray that your government would immediately start verifying these people and respect their fundamental rights of being recognized by an independent country like Republic Nepal.
Further, I want to inform your government that with the world’s largest resettlement under progress, the donor agencies have started reducing the size of their aid-basket. People have been forced to survive with the minimal facilities, and sometimes the supply is never regular. I must mention here with priority that medical assistance provided to the refugees is far below the expectation and requirement, most of the patients requiring expensive treatments being suggested to fill-up resettlement forms alluring them of better treatment in the resettlement countries.
Lastly, I must avail this opportunity to tell your government that refugee leaders including Tek Nath Rizal, Rongthong Kunley Dorji, and Balaram Poudel among others have been denied issuance or renewal of travel documents. Also, dozens of refugee journalists have been practicing their journalism without press accreditation since a decade as Nepal has not yet recognized their status. Therefore, I request your government to issue travel documents to ease their travel and also explore possibility to recognize refugee journalists on humanitarian grounds.
Thanking you for creating this opportunity to address you an open letter on behalf of the Bhutanese citizens in exile.