Nepal: UNHCR saddened over death and injuries as refugees attempt to return to Bhutan

KATHMANDU, 30 May - The UN refugee agency is extremely concerned over a violent confrontation on the Mechi bridge, that divides Nepal and India, between marching refuges and Indian police and is saddened over the death of one refugee and several injured.

Starting Monday, thousands of refugees from camps in eastern Nepal organised a "march" to exercise their right of return to their home country. Reportedly, the march turned violent on Tuesday, when the marching refugees clashed with Indian police.

"We are indeed extremely concerned by the latest developments and fully understand the increasing frustration of the refugees about the lack of progress on repatriation," said Abraham ABRAHAM, UNHCR representative in Nepal.

"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," added Abraham.

"We have already sent representatives to the border town of Kakarbhitta today to assess the situation there, together with a medical team," said Abraham.

Consistent with the call of the Government of Nepal, UNHCR appeals to all refugees to return to their respective camps and urges all sides to refrain from violence and the use of force.

Meanwhile, the situation in the camps was reportedly calm on Wednesday morning. The government has lifted curfew in the camps.

"For security to prevail and for normalcy to return it is paramount that the civilian character of the refugee camps is maintained," said Abraham.

UNHCR invites all parties to come forward to dialogue openly in order to bring about a peaceful resolution to this situation.

The UN refugee agency together with the international community will make every effort to ensure that as many doors as possible are opened in terms of a lasting solution to the plight of the refugees, including voluntary repatriation and the implementation of third country resettlement. It strongly supports the right of refugees to return to Bhutan, but at the same time asks refugees to uphold the right of every individual to make informed choices and take decisions regarding his or her own future.


For further information on this topic, please contact:

Nini Gurung
Spokesperson and External Relations Assistant UNHCR,
Kathmandu Nepal