Nepal and Bhutan talks on refugees next month
Published: Saturday, 7 October, 2006, 09:53 AM Doha Time
KATHMANDU: With an announcement earlier this week that the US was ready to take in 60,000 of the more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in UN run camps in east Nepal, Nepal Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister K P Sharma Oli yesterday said Nepal and Bhutan would hold ministerial talks next month on the repatriation of the refugees.
Oli, who returned yesterday after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, told journalists that Bhutan and Nepal had agreed to hold ministerial-level talks next month on the issue.
More than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees, most of them Nepali speaking, have been living in seven camps run by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in eastern Nepal for the past 15 years.
The Bhutanese refugee leaders say they were forced out of the tiny Himalayan kingdom after they campaigned for democracy, following the Nepalese pro-democracy movement in late 1990. They were expelled by Bhutan and started trickling into Nepal in early 1991.
More than a dozen ministerial-level meetings have been held between the two countries, with a breakthrough in 2003 to classify the refugees.
The verification committee found that 74% of the refugees were entitled to return to their homeland. However, the Bhutanese government alleged misconduct in the process and cancelled the classification.
There has been no ministerial meeting between the two countries since 2003.
Foreign Minister Oli said the two countries would "try to solve the problem" in their meeting next month.
Political observers in the Nepalese capital, however, say that there was little prospect of Bhutan taking back the refugees anytime soon. - DPA