Bhutanese refugees urge to talk to India for dignified repatriation


By Bishnu Prasad Pokharel,Damak, May 31: Bhutanese refugees here in Nepal have asked for raising the resettlement issue with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during the visit of Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal Prachanda to India. 

The leaders of the Bhutanese refugee camps have demanded trilateral dialogue with India and Bhutan for an option of their dignified resettlement in their own country.

Prime Minister Prachanda is embarking on an official visit to India at the formal invitation of his Indian counterpart from May 31 to June 3. 

As the Bhutanese refugees felt that the problem cannot be resolved through discussions between Nepal and Bhutan alone, the leaders of the camp urged to raise a tripartite meeting including India to find a solution to the problem.

In order to draw the attention of Prime Minister Prachanda, who is about to visit India, the request was made by publishing a press release on Monday from Bhutan Independent People's Forum and National Reconciliation Committee of Bhutan. 

At the same time, it is said that the option of resettlement in a third country and repatriation will be opened, but because only one option can be chosen, it is repeatedly said that the issue of repatriation has been neglected.

In Bhutanese refugee camps in Beldangi, Jhapa and Pathari Shanishare of Morang, about 6,500 refugees are struggling with various problems of food, health, education. 

"We request you (PM Prachanda) to advance the option of dignified repatriation for a long-term solution to the problem of Bhutanese refugees, read the statement. 

In the statement jointly signed by Dhan Bir Subba, General Secretary of Bhutan Independent People's Forum and Krishna Bir Tamang, Coordinator of the National Reconciliation Committee, it is mentioned that the refugees in the camp want to return to their country with self-respect. 

Repatriation should be the first option to solve the refugee problem, but the rights of Bhutanese refugees have been undermined by giving priority to resettlement in third countries.

Although it is said that the long-term solution to the Bhutanese refugees is dignified repatriation, no initiative has been taken so far for repatriation, they commented.  

The statement also mentioned that until the 15th round of dialogue between the government of Nepal and the government of Bhutan to resolve the Bhutanese problem, no concrete conclusion could be reached. 

Bhutanese refugees had once started a movement to go to Bhutan via Mechi Bridge, but Indian security personnel stopped them there. Du ring the time, Bhutanese refugees, who were willing to return to their country, staged sit-in protest several times at the Mechi Bridge on the Nepal-India border. In 2008, the refugees had also begun a movement pressing Nepali and Indian governments for their resettlement in their own country.

During the resettlement programme, about 113,500 refugees had been resettled in third countries, mainly in America, Australia, Canada, and Denmark. 

The government of Nepal has not provided identity cards to more than 6,500 people residing in the camps citing that they were all not refugees. 

After the issue of fake Bhutanese refugees came to light last month, it has been found that the debate on resettlement to a third country or repatriation has started again in the Bhutanese refugee camps here. After the arrest of the Bhutanese human rights leader Tek Nath Rizal, who raised his voice on the issue of repatriation, this issue has become even more complicated.

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