US ready to give new home to Bhutanese exiles in Nepal
Agence France-PresseLast updated 10:04pm (Mla time) 10/02/2006
The United States is prepared to provide a new home for tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees who have been living in limbo in Nepal for more than a decade, a senior US official said on Monday.
"The United States has come forward and said that we are willing to resettle a very significant part of this population," said Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.
"We think that over the next three or four years we can easily absorb 50,000-60,000 of the people who are in these camps," said Sauerbrey, who was in Geneva to take part in a meeting of the UN refugee agency's executive board.
Some 106,000 Bhutanese refugees, mostly ethnic Nepalese Hindus, have been living in seven camps in southeast Nepal after leaving Bhutan in 1990 when the Buddhist kingdom launched cultural reforms encouraging the use of Bhutan's language and national dress.
Bhutan later expelled more ethnic Nepalese for allegedly entering the remote Himalayan kingdom illegally.
Bhutan and Nepal have argued for years over each other's responsibility for the refugees.
More than a dozen Bhutanese have already arrived in the United States or have been given exit permits by Nepalese authorities, most of them young women who have been victims of sexual exploitation in refugee camps, Sauerbrey told journalists.
"This is one of the very, very long, protracted refugee situations," said Sauerbrey.
"We are very happy that there is seemingly now some movement on this situation, and we will keep working at every opportunity with the two governments to try to move this process along," she said.
Australia and Canada have also said they are willing to take in some of the refugees, Sauerbrey noted.