Pressure On Bhutan To Take Back Refugees

Published: Thu 28 Oct 2004 10:33 AM
Pressure On Bhutan To Take Back Refugees
By Indra Adhikari
Bhutanese human rights leader and chairman of Human Rights Council of Bhutan Tek Nath Rizal on Tuesday called for an international conference in Nepal to find a permanent solution of the stalemate refugee crisis.
He said he received positive response from European and other Bhutan’s donor while on his first visit to attend the UNHCR ExCom meeting recently held in Geneva. It would pressurize Bhutan to take back the refugees languishing in seven UNHCR run camps in eastern Nepal for the last 15 years. However, he did not mention the date of the conference but said it can be held sooner if Nepal give attention.
Rizal was released by the Bhutanese authority in 1999 after a decade in jail. Bhutanese king Jigme Singye Wangchuck earlier said that he would release Rizal soon the refugee problem gets resolved.
Meanwhile American Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Arthur E. Gene Dewey visited the refugee camp, Beldangi, on October 19 More than 100,000 refugees in the camps now understand that their desire to go home to Bhutan may not come to fruition.
The 15 rounds of Nepal-Bhutan bileteral talks failed to find any constructive solution. In 2000, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Sadako Ogata had told the refugees that Bhutan was ready to welcome them back. But her assurance turned out to be hollow.
This is the first such high profile visit since Bhutan’s disengagement from the bilateral process on December 22, 2003 when refugees pelted stones on Bhutanese verification official.
The tussle arose as the Bhutanese team announced harsh conditions for their repartiation to homesteads. Bhutan sites secuirty reason that hinders the resumption of the refugee verification while refugees demand third party involvement in the process, either India or UNHCR.
The verification of the refugees in one of the camps – Khudunabari – has shown that over 75 per cent of them have evidence to prove Bhutanese.
Gene also visited Bhutan where he said the received positive response from the regime and is scheduled to visit India to garner support. India is one of the largest donors and immediate neighbour of Bhutan.

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