Refugee resettlement process begins

Kathmandu/Jhapa, Nov 6:

The much-awaited process for the large scale third country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees formally began today with a mass information campaign in all the camps to assist the refugees to make an informed decision, United Nations High Commissioner (UNHCR) for Refugees said.

“UNHCR prefers to help refugees go back to their home countries when they can do so in safety and dignity, however, in this case, the only option available is that of resettlement in a third country for those refugees who wish to make this choice,” said Abraham Abraham, UNHCR Representative in Nepal.

“We urge refugees and refugee leaders to respect the right of every individual to make an informed choice and take decision regarding his or her own future,” Abraham said in a statement.

While the United States of America has announced that it would resettle 60,000 refugees and even more if required, Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway have also expressed their desire to resettle the refugees. Canada has announced its plan to resettle 5,000 efugees.

The statement added that referral by UNHCR for resettlement does not mean automatic acceptance in a third country. “The final decision on whether an individual is authorised to resettle in a particular country would be made by the concerned country, normally following an individual interview to confirm the identity and interest of the individual for resettlement,” it added. It should also be noted that the refugees cannot choose the resettlement country.

Speaking at a press conference in Damak today, Abraham said the commission hopes that the first group of refugees will be resettled in the third countries by January. It was said on the occasion that a cultural orientation will be organised for the refugees by the respective countries. Abraham added that those wishing to resettle would be selected based on priority and no prejudice would be shown on factors like age or physical weakness. “I will myself carry the physically handicapped to the plane. Just watch it.”

He trashed rumours that physically handicapped and elederly would have no chance of resettlement.

Abraham said the forms would be distributed to the willing refugees in all seven camps in Jhapa and Morang from the next week. “The forms we receive from them will be submitted to international organisation working to resettle the refugees, the International Organisation of Migration,” he said.

“Everything is up to those countries who are showing interest to accept them. We are just facilitating the process.”