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U.S. Welcomes Bhutan's Refugees

A Center for Disease Control (CDC) volunteer helped distribute clothing, toys, and household items to Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States. (file)

The U.S. and 7 other countries have offered to resettle Bhutanese refugees still expelled from Nepal.

This month the number of Bhutanese refugees resettled to third countries from Nepal reached 35,000. About 30,000 of the 35,000 have been resettled to the United States.

The refugees are descendants of Nepalese who moved to Bhutan in the 19th century. Most of these ethnic Nepalis were Hindu and remained largely distinct from Bhutan's Buddhist Druk majority. During the 1980s, the Buddhist-dominated Bhutanese government stripped ethnic Nepalis of citizenship and other basic rights and expelled tens of thousands of them.

Since 1991, Nepal has given asylum to more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees. Many of these refuges wish only to return to their homes in Bhutan. After almost 2 decades and 15 rounds of failed negotiations between Nepal and Bhutan to achieve repatriation of the refugees to Bhutan, the U.S. and 7 other countries have offered resettlement to those of the refugees who are interested and qualify.

"We are gratified, together with our partners, to be able to help turn an unfortunate and often painful situation into something more hopeful for these people – America's newest residents, whom we welcome with open arms and hearts," said U.S. Ambassador to Nepal Scott DeLisi. The United States began resettling Bhutanese refugees in early 2008, working with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, the International Organization for Migration, and other members of the Core Group of Nations as Represented in Nepal, that is Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The United States accepts some 75,000 thousand refugees from around the world each year. The Bhutanese resettlement program is currently the third-largest resettlement operation for the United States. Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in all 50 U.S. states and receive support from U.S. federal and state governments as well as non-governmental organizations.

The United States is committed to accepting as many of the Bhutanese whom the United Nations Commissioner for Refugees refers to us for consideration in Nepal and who meet the requirements of U.S. law for refugee admission. Even after passing this notable milestone, some 75,000 Bhutanese remain in camps in southeastern Nepal. The United States continues to urge the Government of Bhutan to accept the return of those persons who are eligible and wish to do so as another important component of finding durable solutions for all Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.