Kathmandu, January 16:

In response to a group of some 20 refugees and asylum-seekers protesting in front of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) office in Kathmandu since January 10 against delay in their resettlement in third countries, the UN body today said the resettlement process is underway but it would take longer.

“They are individual cases of various nationalities assisted under UNHCR’s urban refugee programme. On January 12, UNHCR met a few representatives of the group to listen to their grievances as well as to identify their immediate concerns,” read a press statement issued by the UNHCR.

The refugees had expressed concern about the delay in resettlement process and complained that they were not provided with clear information about their cases in the past, the release quoted UNHCR Protection Officer Sardhanand Panchoe as saying.

“They demanded written assurances that their cases will be submitted for resettlement. They also urged to set deadline regarding the settlement of the cases,” added Sardhanand.

UNHCR assists urban refugees to find durable solution to their problems.

Potential solutions include voluntary repatriation to the country of origin, local integration in the country of asylum, or resettlement in third countries.

The United Nations body said it is seeking the refugees’ resettlement in third countries as local integration is not available in Nepal and repatriation to their countries of origin is not feasible.

“Resettlement is a lengthy process, in which UNHCR plays a supporting role. The decision to accept a case for resettlement rests with the resettlement country, rather than with the UNHCR,” said Kimberly Roberson, Senior Durable Solutions Officer. “The process may take many months, and in some cases may not be possible,” stressed Kimberly.

The members of the group are at various stages of the resettlement process, according to UNHCR. “They have been provided information on UNHCR activities on their behalf. The refugee agency has assured the group that the organisation is working diligently on their behalf. Due to UNHCR’s resettlement policies and the exigencies of humanitarian work, it is not possible to provide written deadlines or guarantees for resettlement of individual cases,” said the press statement.

The UNHCR provides direct legal advice, protection and assistance (in areas of health, education, domestic needs/household support) to individuals from various nationalities approaching the refugee agency for asylum and other protection needs.