Most Bhutanese against repatriation

DAMAK: Twenty-thousand Bhutanese refugees want to return home, a survey conducted at the refugee camps has shown.

A group of senior refugees had urged the compatriots to fill out a form, asking them to indicate where they wanted to return to their homeland. Their campaign started on May 4 to pressurise concerned bodies for the refugees’ repatriation.

Campaign coordinator Harkajung Subba said the survey had been over at all the seven camps. Claiming that the bid was the first of its kind, he said the data was being processed, suggesting the figures could slightly vary.

The campaign was supported by Bhutan Human Rights Organisation, Bhutan Refugee Repatriation Programme Management Council and Bhutan Gurkha Rastriya Mukti Morcha.

In the seven camps located in Jhapa and Morang districts, some 107 thousand refugees live in a deplorable condition, ever since they were chased away by the Druk government in 1990s. Their livelihood is largely dependent on various donor agencies’ support.

As many as 18,000 refugees have so far been settled in the the third country. The UNHCR started the settlement programme last year. USA, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark and Australia have accommodated the refugees. UNHCR claims to have allowed the refugees to either return to Bhutan or take shelter in a third country.

The campaigners are planning to submit the signatures to the UNHCR and the governments of Nepal, Bhutan and India, including other bodies concerned. Subba demanded that the UNHCR help them return home as it facilitated the third country resettlement plan.

Subba dismissed the allegation that only old refugees had filled out the forms and said everyone had participated in the campaign. Dilman Magar of Beldangi camp said, “I am hopeful that we will soon return to our homeland, Bhutan.”