Nepal

Nepal: Canada's new government to accept 5,000 Bhutanese refugees

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Ottawa, May 22, 2007 - Canada's New Government today announced that Canada will resettle up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees who have been living in camps in Nepal since the 1990s.

The Honourable Diane Finley, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, made the announcement in Toronto at the COSTI Corvetti Education Centre.

"Canada's New Government is committed to working with the international community to find long-term solutions for these refugees, many of whom have been living in these camps in difficult conditions for more than 15 years," said Minister Finley. "Our decision to resettle up to 5,000 refugees in Canada is part of a coordinated effort by a number of countries to address this longstanding refugee situation once and for all."

An estimated 108,000 Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s.

"Today marks an important milestone in the effort to resolve a longstanding situation of forced displacement," said the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. "We encourage the governments of Bhutan and Nepal to continue to work together with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to fulfill their commitment to find a comprehensive and lasting solution to the situation."

In addition to efforts to resettle this population, Canada has also played an important role in helping to respond to the basic human needs of the Bhutanese refugees. Canada, through the Canadian International Development Agency, allocated $350,000 toward the UNHCR's 2007 activities in Nepal, which focus primarily on the Bhutanese refugees. The United Nations World Food Programme also chose to allocate $500,000 in Canadian funds in 2006 for the care and sustenance of these people.

"Canada is committed to helping the Bhutanese refugees rebuild their lives," said the Honourable Josée Verner, Minister of International Cooperation and Minister for La Francophonie and Official Languages. "The plight of refugees is of particular concern and finding practical solutions to this problem is an important priority."

Over the past few years, the UNHCR has worked to find a solution for the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal that would involve a combination of voluntary repatriation, local integration and resettlement. In November 2005, seven interested countries - Canada, Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the United States - formed a working group to support the UNHCR's efforts.

This announcement accompanies a joint statement made by the member states of the working group who have committed to promoting a comprehensive approach to the Bhutanese refugee situation. Member states have agreed to resettle and to support the integration needs of a substantial number of refugees who choose the option of going to another country. Please visit http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/canada_un/geneva/2007-05-16-en.asp to read the working group's communiqué.

Canada recognizes that the needs of the Bhutanese refugees extend beyond resettlement and will continue to work with the UNHCR and other nations toward a comprehensive and sustainable solution for them. Overall, Canada's resettlement program accepts over 11,000 refugees annually from around the world.

It is expected that the Bhutanese refugees will arrive in Canada over the next three to five years.

For further information (media only), please contact:

Philippe Mailhot
Press Secretary
Minister's Office
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
613-954-1064

Marina Wilson
Spokesperson, Media Relations
Communications Branch
Citizenship and Immigration Canada
613-952-1650

Foreign Affairs Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada
613-995-1874
http://www.international.gc.ca

Media Relations Office
Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA)
Telephone: 819-953-6534
E-mail: info@acdi-cida.gc.ca