World refugee day : Displaced Bhutanese rue their lot

Ishwar Khanal

Kathmandu, June 19:

Home is a tent... food, a daily handful of maize... and life, a barrel of unquenchable hope! A votre sante, the indominable spirit of refugees, not just in enduring dangers and violence of crises but also in the grit they show in rebuilding their lives and contributing to society, whether in difficult or familiar circumstances. The theme of this year’s World Refugee Day is, “It takes courage to be a refugee, the courage not only to survive, but to preserve and rebuild shattered lives.” But the Bhutanese refugees are getting frustrated since they have been languishing in camps for the last 15 years. “Nothing has changed in the last 15 years,” said Bhutanese human rights leader, Tek Nath Rizal.

He urged the media and the international community to help find a solution to the protracted crisis. A message from UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Antonio Guterres, said the refugees face an uncertain future in unfamiliar surroundings. The Bhutanese refugees have a common grouse: “We want to go back to our own country.” One leader, RB Basnet, concurred

with the year’s theme, saying that circumstances like injustice, ethnic cleansing, and other factors of the Bhutanese establishment had compelled them to become refugees, but they have been surviving in camps with “courage”, despite all odds. Basnet said the refugees are optimistic but worried about India’s “indifference” to the issue, adding, “India’s help would be most effective.” He also refuted Bhutan’s claims of Maoist infiltration in the refugee camps of Jhapa and Morang. Earlier, UNHCR representative in Nepal, Abraham Abraham, also had dismissed such claims.