Resettlement of Bhutanese refugees reaches 100,000 milestone


The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) today marked a major milestone in the resettlement of refugees from Bhutan in Nepal, with 100,000 people having been referred for resettlement to third countries since 2007. Nearly 80,000 of them have started new lives in eight different countries.

A resettling woman of 77-years-old at IOM transit center, Baluwatar, Kathmandu/BNS

“Making 100,000 submissions and reaching nearly 80,000 departures are incredible achievements in the history of this refugee programme and for UNHCR,” said Diane Goodman, UNHCR Acting Representative in Nepal.

“We have been able to achieve these major milestones thanks to the generosity of the resettlement countries and our donors, the great support of the Government of Nepal, and the resilience of the refugees,” she added. “Appreciation also goes to IOM for their exemplary partnership, and to UNHCR colleagues as well as WFP and NGO partners for their hard work.”

Since the large scale third country resettlement programme started in Nepal six years ago, UNHCR has been interviewing refugees and referring them to resettlement countries for consideration. Once the refugees are accepted by resettlement countries, IOM conducts health assessments, organizes cultural orientation courses and transports the refugees from Nepal to their new homes, according to a joint press circular issued by IOM and UNHCR, Friday.

The time between the submission of a case to the resettlement country and departure to a third country involves a number of steps: interview of the refugees by the resettlement countries, medical examinations, issuance of exit permits to those refugees accepted for resettlement, cultural orientation, and travel arrangements, added the statement.

US Envoy to Nepal Peter W Bodde (second from right in the first row), representatives of IOM, UNHCR, mediapersons at the press meet in Baluwatar, Kathmandu/BNS

The acceptance rate of UNHCR’s referrals by resettlement countries currently stands at 99.4 per cent of total submissions – the highest in the world.

The United States of America has accepted the largest numbers (66,134), followed by Canada (5,376), Australia (4,190), New Zealand (747), Denmark (746), Norway (546), the Netherlands (326) and the United Kingdom (317).

“We look back at these one hundred thousand stories with resolve and inspiration. We pay tribute to the courage of these women, men and children and to the generosity of those who welcome them at the other end,” said Maurizio Busatti, IOM Chief of Mission in Nepal.

The statement further said that UNHCR would continue to provide in-depth and targeted information on resettlement to the refugees through mobile information counseling in the camps.

” We count on resettlement countries to facilitate the speedy departure of refugees they have accepted for resettlement and to continue their strong support in finding comprehensive solutions for the remaining refugees from Bhutan,” said Diane Goodman.

With nearly 80,000 refugees resettled from the original population of 108,000, the seven refugee camps in eastern Nepal have been merged into two, Sanischare and Beldangi.

Six years into the programme, there is still a steady stream of interest in resettlement from the refugee population. Amongst the over 38,000 remaining refugees, some 29,000 have thus far expressed an interest in resettlement, added the report.