The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North

The Sorry Saga of Bhutan's North
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Friday, May 25, 2007

Explore all avenues for repatriation: UNHCR chief

[ 2007-5-24 ]

KATHMANDU, May 23: The visiting chief of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Antonio Guterres has called on all relevant partners to be engaged for a comprehensive solution of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.

After his visit to the refugee camps in Jhapa of eastern Nepal, he said, "We had to provide all possible opportunities to the refugees who are languishing in the camps for 16 years."

At a press conference in Kathmandu Wednesday before leaving for Bhutan to address the problem, he said, "Our duty is to explore and provide opportunities but the decision is of the refugees' themselves."

Terming voluntary repatriation an important component for permanent solution, he said, "We believe that voluntary resettlement can also be opportunity for many people." "My appeal to Bhutan is for very constructive and open attitude," he said.

Asked about the mindset of the refugees in the camp regarding returning to homeland and being resettled in third countries, he said that he could contemplate from his discussions with whom he talked, many of them preferred to return to their homeland. "But we should provide maximum number of opportunities," he added.

He said that he expected positive commitment from the Government of India to help in solving the refugee problems. "I don't have any political objective, my only objective is solution for the people who have been in the refugee camp from 16 years."

He said that UNHCR in collaboration of the Nepal government was also engaged in providing support in the refugee camps for fighting against many problems.

He also expressed gratitude to the countries willing to accept Bhutanese refugees for resettlement with open mind. "The contribution of the countries in this region can also be very important and the help of the international community can also be of extreme relevance in this situation."

He said he had very positive and meaningful discussion with Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala and other authorities of Nepal. "UNHCR will be working together with the government of Nepal in finding a common way to this complex issue."

He expressed deep appreciation for positive and constructive attitude of the government of Nepal in relation to the solution of the refugee problem. He termed Nepal's visit as meaningful, productive and positive.

He also expressed admiration for peace process taking place in Nepal and said, "It is a remarkable achievement."

The High Commissioner arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday and he met Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister Sahana Pradhan and also visited the refugee camps in Jhapa district. He will be leaving for Bhutan on Thursday morning.

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