From "Frank Imhoff"
Date Thu, 16 Nov 2006 09:17:09 -0600
LWF Welcomes Resettlement Option for Bhutanese Refugees "Resettlement Does Not Extinguish Refugees' Right to Return Home"
GENEVA, 16 November 2006 (LWI) * The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) welcomes recent indications by several countries of openness to receiving Bhutanese refugees for resettlement, but stresses that resettlement does not exclude repatriation to Bhutan.
"The LWF would * like to underline that acceptance of third country resettlement does not extinguish the refugees? right to return to the homes in Bhutan from which they were obliged to flee,? LWF General Secretary, Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko says in a statement issued today, 16 November.
The LWF Department for World Service (DWS) program in Nepal has been supporting over 100,000 refugees from Bhutan in refugee camps in eastern Nepal for more than 15 years. In accordance with the refugees' expressed wishes, the LWF has consistently pushed for their repatriation to Bhutan. The Government of Bhutan, however, has so far failed to accept any of the refugees back.
In his statement, Noko reiterates that Bhutan "has a moral and legal responsibility to repatriate the refugees" in conditions of safety and dignity, and to restore the properties they were forced to abandon.
The United States of America and a number of other countries have recently confirmed that they are willing to accept significant numbers of the Bhutanese refugees for resettlement. Noko expresses his gratitude to these countries and the LWF's satisfaction that "after so many years of living in limbo without any durable solution on offer," the refugees will finally have the opportunity of considering an option for their future. He also states the LWF's expectation "that no political or practical obstacle will be placed in the way of the refugees? consideration of third country resettlement as a viable option."
The LWF/DWS work in Nepal focuses on the empowerment of the most disadvanta ged and vulnerable groups in the country, including humanitarian support and advocacy for the rights of the Bhutanese refugees living in the camps. (326 words)
The full text of the LWF statement follows:
LWF Statement on the Resettlement of Bhutanese Refugees
For more than 15 years, the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) has been supporting the more than 100,000 people who were obliged to flee from their homes in Southern Bhutan and to take refuge in Nepal. The LWF believes that the refugees were forced to leave Bhutan because of their ethnicity. The LWF has always held the view that Bhutan has a moral and legal responsibility to repatriate the refugees. It is to the discredit of the Government of Bhutan that it has not fulfilled - or even accepted - this responsibility towards its own citizens. The LWF takes this opportunit y to renew its call to the Government of Bhutan to receive the refugees back in conditions of safety and dignity, and to restore to them the properties they were forced to abandon.
At the same time, after so many years of living in limbo without any durable solution on offer, the LWF is pleased that those refugees who wish to consider the option of third country resettlement will, it seems, finally be given the opportunity to do so. The LWF would also like to underline that acceptance of third country resettlement does not extinguish the refugees' right to return to the homes in Bhutan from which they were obliged to flee.
The LWF is very grateful to those countries that have already given generous indications of their willingness to accept refugees from Bhutan for resettlement, and to the Government of Nepal for its many years of patient hospitality to this community. We trust that the Government of Nepal will further extend its cooperation to the refugees so as to ensure that those who wish to accept third country resettlement may do so without hindrance or undue delay. The LWF hopes that no political or practical obstacle will be placed in the way of the refugees' consideration of third country resettlement as a viable option.
For its part, the LWF will do everything in its power to ensure that the refugees are able to exercise a voluntary choice as to whether they wish to accept third country resettlement, to facilitate the implementation of their choices, and to continue to support their rightful claims to return home to Bhutan.
Rev. Dr Ishmael Noko General Secretary The Lutheran World Federation Geneva, 16 November 2006
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(The LWF is a global communion of Christian churches in the Lutheran tradition. Founded in 1947 in Lund, Sweden, the LWF currently has 140 member churches in 78 countries all over the world, with a total membership of 66.2 million. The LWF acts on behalf of its member churches in areas of common interest such as ecumenical and inter-faith relations, theology, humanitarian assistance, human rights, communication, and the various aspects of mission and development work. Its secretariat is located in Geneva, Switzerland.)
[Lutheran World Information (LWI) is the LWF?s information service. Unless specifically noted, material presented does not represent positions or opinions of the LWF or of its various units. Where the dateline of an article contains the notation (LWI), the material may be freely reproduced with acknowledgment.]
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