UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres told residents at Goldhap camp on Wednesday that there was more than one solution to the plight of over 100,000 Bhutanese who have been living in eastern Nepal for the last 16 years.
The High Commissioner outlined the options during his first official visit to Nepal to focus on current efforts to alleviate the long-standing situation of some 107,000 refugees who have been living in seven camps since the early 1990s.
Mr. Guterres said the agency is "very encouraged by recent interest in resettling some of the refugees," referring to an offer by the United States to accept some 60,000 of the Bhutanese in Nepal. Other countries that have expressed similar interest, UNHCR said.
At the same time, he voiced hope that refugees who wish to return to Bhutan would be able to return home. "Despite 16 years with little success, we will continue to knock on Bhutan's door to seek a solution for those who want to go back."
Mr. Guterres stressed that everyone must have the freedom to make his or her own informed decision. "The option of resettlement or voluntary repatriation is for them to choose and decide," he said, adding that UNHCR's job "is to open as many doors as possible so that they can leave the long years of exile behind them and start a new life as soon as possible."
The UN refugee agency has started a mass information campaign to sensitize refugees in all seven camps on resettlement procedures and their individual right to decide for or against it.
In the capital, Kathmandu, Mr. Guterres met with Nepal's Prime Minister Giriji Prasad Koirala and other senior officials to thank the country for its "very constructive and positive approach" to finding solutions for the refugees before a comprehensive solution is found for all camp residents in Nepal.
Myanmar refugees from Thai camp are being resettled, UN refugee agency says
The second phase of a large-scale resettlement of ethnic Karen refugees from Myanmar has begun with a group of more than 30 leaving a camp in northern Thailand to start a new life in the United States, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.
"These refugees who fled fighting in eastern Myanmar have little realistic prospect of going home and they have been leading a very restricted life in the camp for more than a decade," said the UNHCR Representative in Thailand, Hasim Utkan, who was at the camp send-off. "So, while it's hard for them to leave a country just across the border from their homeland, they are excited about a new future in the US."
Between May 16 and the first week of July, 404 refugees are scheduled to depart for the US, with an overall planning figure of nearly 10,000 refugees from Thailand to depart to America by September 30 this year.
"The scale of the resettlement operation is really quite amazing," said Mr. Utkan. "This is something which has rarely been offered in a refugee situation."
Nine Thai government-run refugee camps strung along the border with Myanmar shelter a total of 140,000 refugees.