Kathmandu, October 7 :

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has welcomed

US Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugee and Migration Affairs, Ellen Sauerbrey’s announcement of US offer to resettle Bhutanese refugees in the US.

The offer to resettle 60,000 refugees in the US is extremely “welcome and generous,” said the UNHCR.

Earlier in Geneva, Sauerbrey had said that the US was offering to resettle Bhutanese refugees in camps in eastern Nepal for 16 years.

UNHCR also lauded interest shown by Canada and Australia in resettling the refugees. “This may help break the deadlock which has existed for many years in finding a positive and lasting solution for these people. We consider that all options should still be kept open for a comprehensive solution to the plight of the refugees,” said the UNHCR.

The UNHCR was hopeful that the governments concerned would seize the opportunity presented by these interested countries to help “resolve this very protracted situation.”

Terming the refugee crisis in Nepal as one of Asia’s most protracted refugee situations, the UNHCR said the opportunity of large-scale resettlement is a “real spark of hope.”

Over 106,000 refugees from Bhutan have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s.

Although several countries were considering taking in Bhutanese refugees, the US announcement is the first concrete offer, it said. However, it said that it is for the refugees to decide if they are willing for resettlement.

“We’ve noticed more refugees want to be resettled and start a new life,” said the UNHCR. It said that young adults and children who were born and raised in the camps have dreams and career ambitions and can’t be achieve in a refugee camp.

“Vulnerable refugees who find camp conditions particularly tough will also be glad of the opportunity for a less restricted and difficult life in a resettlement country,” said the UNHCR.