Nepal: Bhutanese Refugees halt Long March

Kathmandu, May 31: Bhutanese refugees have agreed to halt their 'Long March' for repatriation to Bhutan for the next 15 days following talks with Indian officials on Wednesday.

The refugees postponed their repatriation drive after the Indian side agreed to release 15 refugees arrested during the clashes at the Nepal-India border on Monday and Tuesday. At the meeting held in India's Panitanki, the Indian officials assured that their central government would react to the refugees' concern within 15 days. There was also an understanding to take a decision on the casualties after some time.

Chief district officer of Jhapa, Jaya Mukunda Khanal, refugee leaders and Indian administrative and security officials participated in the talks. One refugee was killed and dozens others injured when Indian police opened fire after thousands of refugees tried to cross Mechi Bridge on Tuesday, the second day of their Long March. There was violent confrontation between the refugees and the Indian police on Monday as well.

UNHCR saddened by casualties UN refugee agency has said it is saddened by the death and injuries in clashes between the Bhutanese refugees and Indian police. "The UN refugee agency is extremely concerned over a violent confrontation on the Mechi bridge, that divides Nepal and India, between marching refugees and Indian police and is saddened over the death of one refugee and several injured," a press statement issued by the UNHCR's Kathmandu office said.

"Although we still do not have all of the details of what transpired, there is no justification for such violence and loss of life. This is a terrible tragedy and our condolences go to all the families of those who died and were injured," said UNHCR country representative Abraham ABRAHAM.

He also said the refugee had fully understood the increasing frustration of the refugees about the lack of progress on repatriation.


Reuters - Thomson Reuters Foundation
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