Date: 17 Feb 2009
IOM's resettlement programme for Bhutanese refugees from camps in eastern Nepal, which started in January 2008, has now assisted over 10,000 people.
The refugees, known as Lhotsampas, have been resettled in the United States (9,032), Australia (520), New Zealand (186), Denmark (140), Norway (109), the Netherlands (55), Canada (33) and Sweden (3).
More than 105,000 Lhotsampas, who are of ethnic Nepali origin, fled to seven camps in the Jhapa and Morang regions of Nepal 17 years ago following Bhutan's decision to revoke their citizenship and to expel them.
Subsequent negotiations to allow them to return to Bhutan failed and in September 2007 the Nepalese government signed a Memorandum of Understanding with IOM to carry out resettlement activities in Damak, the Nepali town closest to the camps.
The activities include the processing of cases referred to resettlement countries by UNHCR, as well as the medical screening, cultural orientation and travel arrangements of refugees accepted for resettlement.
IOM opened a sub-office in Damak in December 2007 and now employs over 200 local staff operating in Damak and all seven Lhotshampas camps.
"IOM would like to express gratitude to the government of Nepal and to our partners at UNHCR for their continuous support of the resettlement programme," says the head of the IOM Damak sub-office David Derthick.
"In 2008 more than 8,000 Bhutanese refugees left the camps. We hope to more than double that number to between 16,000 and 18,000 in 2009," he added.
For more information contact: Ann Strandoo at IOM Damak.
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Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)