Inner City Press Global Inner Cities Report -
March 14, 2006
In Nepal, Bhutanese Refugees Prohibited from Income Generation Even in their Camps
Byline: Matthew Russell Lee, Inner City Press U.N. Correspondent
UNITED NATIONS, March 14 -- The plight of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal was discussed Tuesday at the United Nations in New York, while further east Denmark's ambassador to Nepal clarified that he equally blames Bhutan and Nepal for the decade-long limbo of these 105,000 people, and Russian Chief Judge V. M. Lebedev visits Kathmandu. A report on the response of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees to the fuel needs of the refugees notes, on its 19th page, that "[u]nder Nepali law, income generation activities are prohibits -- even within the camps." In response to a question from Inner City Press, it was clarified that this restriction was imposed to counter the attempts of refugee women to work and sell goods outside the camps, and that now the surrounding community makes money selling items to the refugees, who are themselves prohibited from any enterprise.
An analogy even in more developed countries without explicit refugee camps is to communities which lobby to become the location of prisons, as sources of income and employment, mused one long-winded wag. While reasons may exist to restrict entrepreneurialism among the incarcerated, refugees it would seem should be treated differently, particularly long-term refugees like the Bhutanese in Nepal, now facing further restrictions in schooling and access to even the most basic health care. The refugees have increasingly been directing protests and petitions at the United Nations, which seems otherwise occupied.
Nepal's envoy to the UN 9/05
The executive director of the UN Population Fund, Thoraya Ahmed Obaid stated in response to Inner City Press' questions that barriers to income generation by refugees is a problem worldwide. But in most situations, she said, the obstacle to work is not fixed in law. Other panelists told stories from two African nations, Liberian refugees in Guinea and Rwandan refugees in Tanzania, and urged that refugee-host countries allow refugees to attempt self-sufficiency, and that the host countries be pushed in this regard by donors and UNHCR.
Footnotes: Speaking of UNHCR, at the noon briefing, Kofi Annan's spokesman was asked if UNHCR has re-thought in light of the March 10 African Union meeting its announcement the day prior that it will reduce service to Darfur by 44%. No, the spokesman said, there is no update and no change.
Speaking of no change, in a press encounter after briefing the Security Council, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tom Koenigs said in response to Inner City Press questions that poppy and heroin production have not been reduced in Afghanistan, and that the reports of avian flu in the country are still unconfirmed.