UN asks Nepal, Bhutan to solve refugee crisis
KATHMANDU, 06/04 - The United Nation High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has urged the governments of Nepal and Bhutan to make arrangements for repatriation of Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, Radio Nepal reported on Sunday. "We urge the two governments in the bilateral process to make arrangements for the repatriation of the refugees to Bhutan while also allowing third country resettlement, so that solution can be implemented for all refugees allowing the closure of camps instead of keeping helpless refugees in camps forever," UNHCR Representative in Nepal, Abraham Abraham was quoted by the radio as saying. Issuing a statement here on Saturday, the UNHCR said it has noted that some 50 Bhutanese refugees are demonstrating in front of the UN House in Kathmandu on Saturday in an attempt to draw the attention of the international community for an early resolution of the Bhutanese refugee issue. "This is a natural reaction from refugees who have been living in difficult camp conditions away from their homes for the past 16 years without any progress towards a solution and we understand their frustration," Abraham said. Although UNHCR has not been requested by Nepal and Bhutan to participate in the bilateral process, the refugee agency has always advocated a comprehensive solution for the resolution of the problem and will continue to exercise its mandated responsibility for the protection of and assistance to all refugees until permanent solutions can be implemented, he said. "A comprehensive solution would take into account voluntary repatriation for those who opt and can return to Bhutan and other alternatives such as third country resettlement for which offers are available from the resettlement recipient countries, and such resettlement opportunities are also not open indefinitely," Abraham said. In this regard, the refugee agency stands ready to work closely with the two governments as well as the international community to find satisfactory solutions for the Bhutanese refugees instead of continuing to keep them in camps like prisoners with uncertainty about their future, he added. About 105,000 refugees have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal for the past 15 years. As many as 15 rounds of bilateral talks held between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan have failed to yield any results.