The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Sunday, November 12, 2006

Third country settlement optional: UNHCR official

Third country settlement optional: UNHCR official [ 2006-11-11 ]
By A Staff Reporter
KATHMANDU, Nov. 10: Despite criticisms on the US offer to resettle 60,000 Bhutanese refugees in its country, UNHCR considers it as one of the alternatives for the permanent solution of the refugee stalemate.

UNHCR representative to Nepal, Abraham Abraham said Friday that the issue of resettlement of refugees in the third countries was only an option, it was up to the refugees to decide whether or not they are prepared to take up the offer.

He refuted charges that the resettlement proposal had been brought to the fore at his own interest and said in a democratic set up the refugees cannot be imposed any form of decision either that of the UNHCR or the international community.

Addressing an interaction programme on "What could be an unfailing alternative to resolve the refugee Problem' held today at the Reporters' Club, Abraham said that the minimal survey on the US offer at Beldangi-II camp had revealed that the refugees were interested to take the offer.

He informed that third countries like Australia, Norway, Canada, New Zealand and other EU member countries are willing to resettle 46,000 refugees in their countries. He said that it might take five more months for the repatriation preparation survey.

Asked why the UNHCR favoured the proposal related to the resettlement of refugees in the third countries instead of emphasising on bilateral dialogue Abraham said alternatives need to be explored to allow them start a new life.

"The refugees have been staying in the camps for 15 years and not thinking about alternatives to allow them start a new life would be against the principles of human rights and a crime."

During the interaction, he said that Bhutan had not responded to the UNHCR proposal to resume bilateral dialogue with Nepal. But the UNHCR does not have any objection over Nepal Government's decision to hold bilateral talks with Bhutan.

Nepal and Bhutan are slated to hold bilateral talks on the refugee issue on November 21. The two countries had started the verification of refugees living in the seven camps in eastern Nepal a few years back to initiate the repatriation process. Although the verification of 12,000 refugees from two camps had already been carried out, the process was stalled after the members of the verification team were assaulted.

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