: Envoy [ 2007-5-26 ]
By A Staff Reporter
KATHMANDU, May 25: US Ambassador James F. Moriarty, visiting the Bhutanese refugee camps on Friday announced details of the US offer to resettle at least 60,000 Bhutanese refugees in America, a news release of the American Centre said from Jhapa.
Moriarty also announced that the American Food for Peace (FFP) programme run by USAID will provide an additional US $ 2 million in food aid to the camps.
"I am pleased to announce the selection of the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to establish and operate a new Overseas Processing Entity (OPE) in Nepal. IOM will open the US OPE in Kathmandu in July and will begin processing activities in September," he told refugees living in the camps for the last 16 years.
Once resettlement processing begins, it will take a minimum of six months from a family's first interview until their travel to the United States," Moriarty said.
Moriarty unveiled the timeline for the resettlement of the Bhutanese refugees while addressing the refugees in Jhapa.
With the cooperation of the Nepal Government, the US Government will shortly begin large-scale resettlement processing of Bhutanese refugees currently residing in the seven camps here in eastern Nepal. The US programme is expected to run for several years, a news release of the American Center quotes Moriarty as saying.
The United States has offered to consider for resettlement in the US 60,000 or more Bhutanese refugees now in camps in Nepal. The US offer is part of efforts by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Core Working Group of countries trying to find a durable solution to your situation. The Core Working Group includes Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States. The group issued a communiqu� in May of this year calling on the governments of Nepal and Bhutan to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the refugee crisis, the release said.
"The United States is the world's largest refugee resettlement country. More than two and a half million refugees have found a home in the US since 1975. Our interest in resettlement is a humanitarian one; we believe that our response to refugees is a moral imperative to alleviate the suffering of others," Moriarty said.
However, resettlement in the United States may not be the best option for every Bhutanese refugee, and only those of you who freely choose resettlement in the United States will be considered, he added.
"During the resettlement process, the US government, and I am certain other donor governments, will continue to advocate for the refugees' right of return to their homeland."
Each refugee who applies for resettlement will undergo a face-to-face interview with an official of the US Department of Homeland Security's Citizenship and Immigration Service.�Refugees are approved for admission to the United States based on an evaluation of their refugee claim and their need for resettlement � not on qualities such as job skills, age, or level of education, the release quoted the US ambassador as saying.
Immediate family members approved for US admission are sent to the US together. While any refugee over the age of 21 may choose to resettle on his or her own, if families choose resettlement together, they will not be separated, he said.
"Let me repeat: Families will not be separated. Also, wherever possible, other relatives will be resettled in the same cities. Refugees are resettled in both urban and rural locations throughout the United States."
Each arriving refugee family is sponsored by a non-governmental organisation in the United States that provides initial housing, basic furniture, food and clothing to help you when you first arrive.
These organisations will also help you to find jobs, enroll you in English classes, and register your children in school. You will be eligible to receive cash and medical assistance from the US government for a limited time after your arrival in the United States. Your economic self-sufficiency is an important goal of our resettlement programme, Moriarty said.
Upon arrival in the United States, you are no longer considered a refugee. There are no refugee camps in America. You will not be expelled from the United States. You will be free to move around the country, to seek employment according to your interests, and to worship as you desire, he said.
"After one year in the United States, you may apply for permanent resident status, and after five years, you may become US citizens. This is your choice. Resettlement in the United States does not preclude the possibility of your return to Bhutan should that option become available later. There have been rumors about this and I want to make very clear that those rumors are completely false."
"I am also happy to announce that the United States is making an additional $2 million in-kind contribution to the World Food Programme for Bhutanese refugees. This extra donation through the USAID Food for Peace (FFP) programme is in addition to the US's first donation of $1.8 million earlier this year. Our total contribution this year so far is $3.8 million."
We well appreciate your current status: you cannot engage in economic activities outside the camps; you cannot own land. Humanitarian assistance, like food aid from the donor community, is critical to meeting your basic needs. Over the last six years, the United States has contributed nearly US$ 11.5 million to the Bhutanese refugee food programme, he said.