The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Friday, October 27, 2006


US to pick refugees camp-by-camp

Burying speculations that the United States would apply selective procedures while picking 60,000 refugees to resettle in the US, Deputy Prime Minister K P Sharma Oli said here Thursday that the US had made the announcement after agreeing, in a consultation with him, to randomly pick them on camp-by-camp basis.

"I had talked with her (US Assistant Secretary of State for Population Refugees and Migration Ellen Sauerbrey) about the refugee issue when I was in America," Oli, who also holds the foreign affairs portfolio, said in an interview.

When asked if the US would select only "intelligent and promising" refugees for resettlement leaving behind the elderly and less-promising ones, Oli said, "No, no. The refugees will be picked on camp-by-camp basis, not on individual basis."

He however said no official notes have been exchanged between Nepal and the US governments in this regard.

Following talks with Oli in the US, Sauerbrey had announced at an executive committee meeting of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Geneva, October 2-6, that the US would resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese Lhotshampa refugees over the next several years. The UN has already welcomed the US offer, saying it a "real spark of hope" to resolve "one of Asia's most protracted" refugee situations.

Despite 15 rounds of failed negotiations with Bhutan vis-à-vis repatriation of 100,000-plus refugees, DPM Oli still lives with a glimmer of hope by approaching Bhutan and requesting the latter to take back its citizens. "If Bhutan agrees to take them back, the problem is resolved once and for all," said Oli. "That's why we have taken initiatives to resume dialogue
with Bhutan." However, Bhutan hasn't yet agreed on a date for the talks.

The latest US offer has prompted deep division among refugees, as thousands are upbeat about it while others are insistent about returning to their homeland.

Envoy appointments within a month’

DPM Oli said that vacant posts in Nepali diplomatic missions will be filled within a month. "We are very close to appointing the ambassadors," he said. "The process will start within a week, including recommending names to the Parliamentary (Public Hearing) Committee, and the process will be over within a month."

Among the 24 Nepalese diplomatic outposts, 15 are vacant. Oli said appointments in 13 key outposts (India, USA, UK, China, France, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Russia, Myanmar, Thailand, Belgium and Saudi Arabia) will be made within the period.

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