Where in US, elsewhere Bhutanese refugees from Nepal resettled to

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KATHMANDU: As many as 92,323 Bhutanese refugees made it to the United States under the third country resettlement programme before February 3, when the temporary ban on the refugee resettlement programme came into effect, the US government records showed. They are hosted by 41 states.

Data extracted from the US Refugee Processing Center's Worldwide Refugee Admissions Procession System revealed that 154 Bhutanese refugees arrived in eight US states after President Donald Trump signed the executive order on January 27.

A total of 462 individuals landed in the country in January and 52 in February. The number stood at 5,974 last year.

More than 85 per cent of 1,08,513 Bhutanese refugees, who were taken outside Nepal for third-country resettlement after the programme was introduced in 2007/2008, have made the US their new home.

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Other seven countries accepted the remaining refugees.

Canada hosted 6,773, Australia 6,204, New Zealand 1,075, Denmark 875, Norway 570, the United Kingdom 358 and the Netherlands 329, according to the UNHCR Nepal.

Bhutanese refugees resettled in third countries. Source: UNHCR and US Refugee Processing Center
Bhutanese refugees resettled in third countries. Source: UNHCR and US Refugee Processing Center

Meanwhile, arrangements in Nepal to send more refugees, who were already screened and selected for resettlement, were put on hold in the wake of Trump's executive order that suspended the refugee resettlement programme for 120 days and entry of travellers from seven Muslim countries.

It is said that around 2,000 UNHCR-registered Bhutanese refugees, who were identified as in need of resettlement and had expressed their interest prior to June 30, 2014, had been considered eligible for processing by the US government in the fiscal year 2017.

Though the presidential order got suspended by a US court, it is uncertain whether and when the ones who are in the pipeline for resettlement would be sent to the US from refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

Thousands of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, dubbed Lhotsampas, were forced to leave Bhutan in the late 1980s and early 1990s due to the state-sponsored discrimination and ethnic tension. More than 1,08,000 of them took refuge in the eastern Nepal.

It is believed that several thousand others are living in Nepal and India without  the UNHCR recognition.

Notwithstanding the introduction of third court resettlement, thousands have expressed their will to return home. Bhutan,  however, has shown its reluctance to take them back from Nepal.