Posts

Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program
Much of the world struggles to assist refugees and other forcibly displaced people. However, Nepal stands out as a rare success story. The nation accepted more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since the 1990s. Nepal’s refugee resettlement program has proven to be effective. The program has relocated about 113,500 refugees to third countries. Additionally, many of the camps that emerged have shut down because they were no longer necessary. However, it is still challenging to provide refugees with their basic needs.

Origins of the Bhutanese Refugee Crisis

Ethnic Nepalis people whose origins lie in Bhutan primarily partake in Nepal’s refugee resettlement program. The Lhotshampas are Nepali people who reside in the southern portion of Bhutan and maintain a distinct culture.

The Bhutanese government initiated the One Nation, One People policy to promote the dominant Bhutanese culture. Many perceived this policy as an attempt to suppress Nepali culture in Bhutan. Additionally, this policy replaced the Nepali language with Dzongkha as the primary mode of instruction in schools. Furthermore, it forbade Nepalis from wearing their traditional clothing, forcing them to dress like the Bhutanese majority.

Bhutanese officials became wary of the substantial Lhotshampa population in the south after the 1988 census. Additionally, accusations emerged of them being illegal aliens along with instances of violence and discrimination. As a result, large numbers of ethnic Nepalis left Bhutan for refugee camps in Nepal.

Nepal’s Refugee Resettlement Program

The population of Lhotshampa refugees in Nepal has increased to more than 100,000 people. Unfortunately, talks with Bhutan failed to produce any solution. Thus, the government of Nepal developed a plan to resettle the refugees in other countries.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program started in 2007. In addition, Nepal and eight other countries collaborated with each other. These countries are the United States, New Zealand, Norway, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Australia and the United Kingdom. These nations agreed to accept Lhotshampa refugees, allowing them to lead new lives outside of refugee camps.

Organizations such as the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and the government of Nepal have aided in the program’s success. UNHCR and the Nepalese government underwent efforts to provide documentation for each refugee. Photos and listings of details of each person provided an accurate number of refugees. This made monitoring the program much easier. In addition, IOM oversaw the practical side of the program. This included arranging flights and teaching refugees how to navigate through an airport.

Challenges That Those in the Camps Face

As a result of Nepal’s refugee resettlement program, the number of Lhotshampas in the country has decreased to about 6,000. Furthermore, out of the seven camps that began in the 1990s, only two remain in the Jhapa and Morang districts of eastern Nepal. While this constitutes a success, the Lhotshampas who remain in the camps still face challenges.

Many people feel isolated because they are unable to join their families abroad. Additionally, they suffer a lack of emotional support and income. As a result, many suffer from depression, substance abuse and suicide in these camps. Furthermore, the camp’s dwindling population has led to a shortage of teachers. UNHCR established a suicide prevention program and youth centers to combat these issues.

Nepal’s refugee resettlement program is effective in relocating most of the Lhotshampas refugees since the 1990s. UNHCR, IOM and the government of Nepal have allowed refugees to have the opportunity to lead new lives in other countries. Many challenges remain for those in the camps. However, the government has made significant efforts to address them.

– Nikhil Khanal
Photo: Flickr

Bhutan Refugees
Situated between India and China, Bhutan is an isolated Buddhist kingdom that had generated one of the highest numbers of refugees in the world compared to its population. Since 1991, one sixth of Bhutan’s people have resettled in Nepal, India and other countries.

  1. Bhutan refugees are called Lhotshampas, or ‘southerners.’ Lhotshampa people are Bhutanese people of Nepalese ancestry. In the 1980s, Lhotshampas were seen as a threat to political order and were evicted from Bhutan in the 1990s to settle in Nepal.
  2. The government of Nepal and UNHCR has managed seven refugee camps since the 1990s. In 2008, the International Organization for Migration and UNHCR jointly started refugee resettlement programs throughout the world.
  3. In 2007, more then 100,000 refugees from Bhutan lived in the seven camps of the Jhapa and Morang districts in eastern Nepal. Now, just two camps remain and the refugee population is less than 18,000 people.
  4. A group of eight countries — Australia, Canada, Denmark, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States of America — came together in 2007 to create new life opportunities for Bhutan refugees.
  5. Bhutan refugees have to go through an interview and selection process. The first refugees settled included women at risk, survivors of violence and torture and refugees with medical needs such as speech and hearing impairments.
  6. Some Bhutan refugees requested that the Nepal government send them back home. These refugees are unwilling to settle in a third country; however, the Secretary of Beldangi Camp Sanchahang Limbu said that he fears there would be no one to care for the refugees once they returned home.
  7. As of November 2015, 5,554 Bhutan refugees were resettled in Australia, 6,500 in Canada, 874 in Denmark, 1,002 in New Zealand, 327 in the Netherlands, 566 in Norway, 358 in the United Kingdom and 84,819 in the U.S.

These migrating people hope for a final destination to their journey, and countries across the world strive to help them attain this goal.

Jacqueline Venuti

Photo: Flickr