The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Friday, March 16, 2012

An EMAIL: Plight of Non-Registered Bhutanese refugees in Nepal - an Urgent Call

Bhutanese Refugees Camp
Jhapa, Nepal
Dated : Feb 21, 2012

Dear Sir/ Madam,

The purpose of this email is intended to share and make our concern known to all concerned fellow Bhutanese who have been resettled but certainly not denying to have forgotten the appalling and inhumane sufferings of a significant number of people like us who are languishing in the camps in eastern Nepal without formal registration - deprived of basic right to identity and survival.
Drawing attention of all concerned fellow Bhutanese, particularly those who had been campaigner of Human Rights and defender of civil, political and cultural rights in Bhutan, we sincerely believe it is once again high time to realize each other’s duties and moral responsibility as the situation calls for urgent respond to the plight of some 3000 unrecognized fellow Bhutanese seeking asylum in Nepal.
In general, un-registered bhutanese refugees fall under various levels of registration categories such as:
Census Absentees (CA) – Registered persons, absent during the 2006/07 joint census verification.
Asylum seekers (ASR)- Non-registered persons, those who had attended 2006/07 joint verification census exercise. Photo for Refugee ID Cards not issued.
Prisoner of Conscience – Those detained in jail in Bhutan and have arrived in Nepal after release.
Non-registered (New arrivals) – more recent arrivals from Bhutan and those who have not attended 2006/07 joint verification census.
we (Asylum Seekers from Bhutan) living in the camps in Jhapa and Morang in Eastern Nepal, sincerely wish to draw your urgent and generous attention to one of the most protracted and appalling situation facing some 3000 non-registered Bhutanese - Asylum Seekers.
Many of us who have formally registered asylum claims during Bhutanese Refugees Camp population census exercise jointly carried out by the Government of Nepal and UNHCR in the year 2006 – 2007, and those who have been interviewed during the Re-registration Exercise in 2008, are awaiting the Government’s decision on the ‘refugee’ status claim till date.

Nepal Government’s swift decision on asylum claims would have certainly been beneficial for us – those who are in desperate need of International protection. It is primarily due to the pending Government decision on the long awaited complementary registration process that we are deprived of the much needed humanitarian support and protection of UN-Refugee Agency (UNHCR). Several appeals we have made in the past to the Higher Authorities of the Nepal Government through the local administration (CDO Office) Chandragadi, Jhapa, offered no respite except for the empty rhetoric.
In an effort to draw attention to our concerns, we even resorted to a number of democratic protest programs; one of such events was the Fast Onto Death Hunger strike that we staged in Pathari and Beldangi camps in January 2011 (from 11/01/2011 - 14/01/2011). On the eve of fourth day we called off the strike after CDO Jhapa, convened a meeting with us at Pathibhara (Armed Police Force Barrack) in Damak and assured us that he would resolve the crisis within fifteen days; however, no tangible efforts have been made so far as the crisis still remains intact.
Besides, such protest programs we have organised various delegations to local government authorities (CDO/UNHCR Field Office Damak) and Home Ministry, Kathmandu to no avail.
Our delegation to Home Jt. Secretary and UNHCR Dy. Country Representative on October 10, 2011 and the Home Minister Bijay Kumar Gachhadar on Dec 19, 2011 included representatives of all above cited groups, as given below:
Dhan Kumar Rai – Prisoner of Conscience (18 years in Jail in Bhutan), Khudunabari, Camp. (Kabari/G2/105) (Pakha Gaon, Sibsoo Bhutan)
Deepak Rai – Asylum Seeker, Beldangi – II,(Bel-II/I3/115) (Gola Baazar, Sibsoo Bhutan.
Laxman Gurung – ASR, Bel-I/G2/138 (Gopini, Chirang Bhutan)
Yad Bahadur Gurung – Prisoner of Conscience (7 years in jail in Bhutan), Beldangi-II (Bel/A3/56) (Danabari, Phanfaney, Geylephu Bhutan).
Kishore Kumar Bhandari – ASR, Sanischare pathari (SAN/A4/44) – Ghumauney, Samchi Bhutan.
Tezman Chhetri, Torture Victim (6 years in Jail in Bhutan), Sanischare Camp, SAN/E2/22. Bhur – Geylephu.
Chandra Bahadur Chhetri, ASR – New Arrival, Sanischare camp, (SAN/G1/50).
Bishnu Prasad Sharma, CA, (Kbari/G1/30), Jogimara, Sibsoo Bhutan.
Bhim Tiwari, CA, (Kbari/B1/61), Neoly, Samdrupjongkhar.
Mahendra Nepal, ASR-New Arrival, SAN/A4/09)
Trulku Kezang Tamang Lama – Sanischare camp(SAN/A1/31)
In spite of all these, we are in constant follow-up with the concerned authorities.  Although, there isn’t any tangible progress, but we are still positive and hopeful about it.
So far we believe this is the only democratic means to put our concerns through, but with the passage of time, people are loosing patience and getting more and frustrated and aggresive.
As Asylum Seekers, we are left with only limited options and have no legitimate rights or access to legal procedures. It is widely presumed that one of the biggest problems is that the plight of this segment of Bhutanese refugee population is simply not recognized as being a serious humanitarian issue by the concerned authorities, and apparently there are still some major gaps in the knowledge of concerned authorities about the presence of unrecognized people like us in the camps, living in void - practically deprived of basic right to food and identity which over the period of time rendered us vulnerable, forced into exacerbated poverty, created social tensions, broken families, and destroyed children’s futures.
At this time point of time, we are besieged by uncertainties, rumours, virtually no hope for any kind of support and protection, we regret to express our deep concern on the Nepal Government’s apathetic and virtually reluctant position in giving a decision on the long pending ‘refugee’ status claim we have formally registered, which is eventually dragging us into even more horrendous situation of de jure and defacto statelessness.
As rational humans beings, we sincerely believe that we do deserve recognition as persons before the law with formal rights and obligations, therefore made appeal to Home Minister to look into the plight under humanitarian perspectives and respond to this issue – of long awaited decision sympathetically.
We also would like to mention that there are several ficticious groups within the camps that with ulterior motives staged hunger strike in last November – 2011. It was a futile attempt to protest as both UNHCR and Nepal government authorities pronounced it undemocratic and illegal as the strikers resorted to taking laws in their hands during their sit-in protest. It would be worthwhile and appreciated if our Bhutanese fellowmen abroad do not blindly make moral as well as financial support to such groups without verifying authenticity of their protest programs and mode of their protest.
Although, we do need your moral support and concerns, but we seek your support only in times of genuine needs. We have formed a committee, Asylum Seekers Cordination committee (ASRCC) and it was under this committee we have been launching various activities. It is only widely supported Ad hoc committee functioning with support from all groups.
We are waiting for another few weeks for the Nepal government to address our problems. We are planning for yet another delegation to Home Ministry as well as to the Prime Minister if the problems remain unresolved. Given the sluggish response and visibly reluctant stand on the plight of non-registered refugees, we are afraid if we would be forced to take the matter to the apex court of Nepal and seek apex court's ruling on our legitimacy in seeking asylum in Nepal. If it is beyond refugees right to appeal in the court of law in country of asylum, we would move the International court of Justice.
In this connection, we would like to have your views and opinions. Further, we would like to have your kind support both moral and financial if really we feel the need in the very near future.
Kindly contact us at the following phone numbers:
Deepak Rai (former AMCC representative to Sikkim) – (0977) – 9814988171,
Laxman Guurng : (0977- 9722356396.
We are most eagerly waiting for your prompt response, your valuable comments and suggestions are highly solicited.
Laxman / Deepak
Bhutanese refugees camp in Jhapa, Eastern Nepal

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