Refugee Congress ends; B’nese delegates raise various issues

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Including six Bhutanese, former 60 refugees from Syria, Iraq, Rwanda and 20 other nations, all of whom now call the U.S. home, became a part of 2013 Refugee Congress of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) that ended in the US capital from on Dec 11.

During the congress, the delegates also met policymakers, and tried to ensure the refugee voice is part of the conversation on U.S. refugee policies and programs. It was also followed by a day of meetings on refugee issues with delegates’ respective representatives in the U.S. Congress.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres delivered a videotaped message to the Refugee Congress. Anne C. Richard, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration addressed delegates in a plenary session.

From L-R : Jagat Acharya, Hari Niroula, Tika Acharya, Kamal Dhimal, Karna Gurung and Tek Darnal (Picture courtesy: Karna Gurung)
Bhutanese delegates of the Refugee Congress: From left, Jagat Acharya, Hari Niroula, Tika Acharya, Kamal Dhimal, Karna Gurung and Tek Darnal
(Picture courtesy: Karna Gurung)

“The Refugee Congress was an opportunity for us to draw attention of policymakers and delegates towards increasing cases of suicides observed in the Bhutanese community,” Executive Director of Bhutanese Community of New Hemisphere, Tika Acharya, told Bhutan News Service.

According to Acharya, discussions with officials of Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) and UNHCR generated some hopes, basically, in finding a common mechanism to address “alarming suicide rates of resettled Bhutanese in the US”.

The Bhutanese members are also learnt to have asked ORR and government officials to involve community leaders in addressing this issue.

Another delegate from Nebraska, Karna Gurung, stated that the Bhutanese delegates also asked UNHCR to expedite resettlement of cases awaiting family reunification at the earliest.

“The UNHCR officials were found positive towards this call. They assured us that the agency will expedite prolonged cases awaiting resettlement since over five years,” said Gurung.

On Wednesday, the delegates also called on respective representatives in the U.S. Congress.

“We met congressmen with some common agendas like involvement of community leaders in addressing suicide, extension of benefits for new arrivals from eight months to 12 months, and expediting of prolonged cases of family reunion,” explained Kamal Dhimal, who represented the Refugee Congress from North Carolina.

While, Hari Niroual said, he called on senator Maria Cantwell and raised the issues of repatriation for those refugees dwelling in camps .

Other Bhutanese delegates of the congress included Tek Darnal from Illinois, Hari Niroula from Washington Seattle and Jagat Acharya from Missouri. Puspa Luitel from Vermont couldn’t make it to the congress.

Video courtesy: UNHCR

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