UNHCR, IOM say 20,000 resettle so far

Published on Sep 13 2009 // Main News

The UN refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration on September 8 announced that over 20,000 refugees from Bhutan have left camps in Nepal for resettlement countries since the beginning for programme in November 2007.

The United States has accepted the largest numbers – 17,612, many of whom have resettled in Texas, New York, Georgia, Arizona, Pennsylvania, and California. Departures to Australia total 846, Canada 674, Norway 299, New Zealand 294, Denmark 172, and the Netherlands 122.

Sita (left) and her family at the IOM transit centre in Kathmandu. Sita is the 20,000th Bhutanese to be resettled in America.
Sita (left) and her family at the IOM transit centre in Kathmandu. Sita is the 20,000th Bhutanese to be resettled in America.                   Photo: UNHCR

“We are grateful to the resettlement countries for generously giving a chance to the refugees to start their lives afresh in a new country,” said Diane Goodman, UNHCR Acting Representative in Nepal.

“We are equally thankful to the Government of Nepal who has generously hosted the refugees for so many years, and without whose support this programme would not be successful,” added Diane.

UNHCR continues to ensure that refugees are able to make free and informed decisions regarding solutions.

For this purpose, comprehensive and transparent information on resettlement and other durable solutions are provided to the refugees through regular information sessions, focus group discussions and individual counseling, using a wide variety of media.

Special information sessions are organized for marginalised and vulnerable refugees. The International Organization for Migration works with UNHCR and the resettlement countries to facilitate refugee departures from Nepal.

IOM activities include the processing of cases for resettlement countries, notably the USA, as well as medical screening, cultural orientation and travel arrangements.

“IOM has an established infrastructure and trained professionals to facilitate the departure of 2,000 refugees every month. We anticipate more than 25,000 refugees will depart Nepal by the end of this year,” said Sarat Dash, IOM Chief of Mission in Nepal. Currently, there are some 91,000 refugees from Bhutan living in seven camps in eastern Nepal; some have been in exile for as long as 18 years.

So far, more than 78,000 refugees have already expressed their interest for resettlement. Alongside the international community, UNHCR continues to advocate for the option of voluntary return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to do so.