The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Monday, May 21, 2007

Five countries ready to let in 85,000 refugees in Nepal 2007-05-22 11:06:58

KATHMANDU, May 22 (Xinhua) -- Nepali Minister for Foreign Affairs Sahana Pradhan has said five countries were ready to absorb up to 85,000 Bhutanese refugees, The Himalayan Times reported on Tuesday.

According to the daily, this includes the United States' offer to let in up to 60,000 refugees, Canada's proposal to take 5,000 and Denmark's 200.

Australia and the Netherlands are yet to announce the number of refugees they want to accommodate.

"We urge Bhutan to allow repatriation of at least some refugees as a symbolic gesture to show it wants a durable solution," Pradhan said Monday on the eve of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres' arrival in Kathmandu on a three-day visit.

She said Nepal "appreciates" the international community's concern for the resettlement of Bhutanese refugees.

Stating that resettlement was only an "interim solution", Pradhan said it should not be seen as a policy for preventing refugees from returning home.

UNHCR representative in Nepal Abraham Abraham said, "As an Indian I believe India must play a role to resolve Bhutanese refugees' problems."

This was the first time he had made such a remark. He said UNHCR was here to assist the governments of Nepal and Bhutan and the international community.

Some 105,000 Bhutanese refugees have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal for the last 16 years.

As many as 15 rounds of bilateral talks held between the two governments have failed to yield any results so far.

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