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Bhutan Refugees In Nepal

The United States has offered to resettle in the U.S. sixty-thousand or more Bhutanese refugees now in camps in Nepal. The U.S. offer to resettle refugees who choose this option is part of efforts by the Core Working Group on Bhutanese Refugees in Nepal to help resolve the plight of ethnic Nepalis expelled from Bhutan. More than one-hundred-thousand of these refugees are living in seven camps in eastern Nepal.

The working group, made up of Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, and the United States, issued a communiqué calling on the governments of Nepal and Bhutan to find a comprehensive and sustainable solution to the refugee crisis. “Refugees living in Nepal cannot wait indefinitely,” said the working group communiqué. “The physical, social, and emotional costs of living in the camps with uncertain futures are too high,” it said. Canada has offered to resettle up to five-thousand refugees. Australia, Denmark, New Zealand and the Netherlands have offered assistance. The working group says it is ready to “provide assistance for repatriation efforts to Bhutan” and urged the Bhutanese government “to ensure conditions within Bhutan that will not cause further refugee outflows in the future.”

In its latest report on human rights, the U.S. State Department said, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Bhutanese government “committed numerous abuses against ethnic Nepalese” leading to the departure or expulsion of an estimated one-hundred-thousand of these people. The report noted that ethnic Nepalis in Bhutan say they continue to suffer from discrimination.

In November 2006, Nepal's government allowed the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees to begin conducting a census of the refugee camps. The core working group, including the United States, thanked the government of Nepal for permitting the census and for its “commitment to proceed with third-country resettlement while continuing to seek a comprehensive solution for the Bhutanese refugees.”

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 U.S. since 1975. Ellen Sauerbrey, Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, says “our response to refugees is a moral imperative, to alleviate the suffering of other human beings.”