Bhutanese refugees asked to decide on repatriation

Jhapa, September 13

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Nepal Representative Kevin J Allen has asked the Bhutanese refugees residing in Nepal to make up their mind whether to stay in Nepal or return to Bhutan.*

Speaking to journalists at the UNHCR office in Damak, Jhapa, today, Allen said the refugees will be consulted about their choice once third country resettlement concludes by the end of 2016.

“The remaining refugees will be asked to choose one of the options, but that will happen only after the resettlement programme concludes by the last of this year,” he said, adding UNHCR will initiate talks with Nepal and Bhutan governments after that.

According to data, over 105,000 Bhutanese refugees have reached foreign countries including America, Canada and Australia to settle permanently under the programme.

With many of the refugees opting for third country resettlement, there are just about 10,000 persons, mostly elderly and those who have been in matrimonial relationship with Nepalis in the refugee camps now, if the estimate of the UNHCR is anything to go by.

“Ours isn’t the policy to compel refugees to select one of the options; rather it should be taken as a chance to choose one of the options available,” said Allen.

*Editor's note: After publication of the story, the UNHCR has forged a clarification claiming  the quotes attributed to UNHCR Representative to Nepal Kevin J Allen in the article were inaccurate. The inadvertent error is regretted.