UN welcomes US's Bhutanese refugee resettlement offer
KATHMANDU, Oct 7 -
The United Nations has welcomed the United States' proposal to resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next several years.
Describing the offer as an opportunity to break a long-standing deadlock over more than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan living in eastern Nepal, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokeswoman Jennifer Pagonis on Friday said, “Years of bilateral negotiations between Nepal and Bhutan have made little progress in resolving this issue,” adding that, “The opportunity for a large-scale resettlement has made us very hopeful.”
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Population Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey on Wednesday had made the resettlement offer while attending the UNHCR’s Executive Committee meeting in Geneva.
“After 15 different governmental-level consultations between the two governments,” Sauerbrey said at a briefing, “the United States has come forward and said we are willing to resettle a very significant part of this population.”
She had said the United States is likely will be able to absorb up to 60,000 refugees over three or four years, with Canada and Australia also offering to take some of the Bhutanese refugees.
Most of the refugees fled Bhutan in the late 1980s, when the Bhutanese government, dominated by the majority Drukpa ethnic group, accused the minority Lothsampa group of being illegal immigrants. Talks between Nepal and Bhutan on the refugee issue produced no breakthrough and have been stalled for a couple of years.
Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister KP Sharma Oli had said that Nepal and Bhutan will hold foreign minister level talks next month to resolve the Bhutanese refugee crisis. Oli has stressed the need for the respectful return to homeland for the refugees, stating that Nepal will consider third party involvement to resolve the issue only after Bhutan formally declares that it cannot take back the refugees.