Posted by: lokmahara | July 28, 2012

Posted by: lokmahara | June 26, 2012

For Bhutan’s refugees, there’s no place like home

For Bhutan’s refugees, there’s no place like home
Bhutan should at least allow elderly refugees to spend their remaining days in their homeland.

by Bill Frelick
Published in: Global Post

WASHINGTON – “The army took all the people from their houses,” the young man said. “As we left Bhutan, we were forced to sign the document. They snapped our photos. The man told me to smile, to show my teeth. He wanted to show that I was leaving my country willingly, happily, that I was not forced to leave.”

This childhood memory, described to me by a man in a refugee camp in Nepal four years ago, is the story of a loss that has never been made right, not even by a successful resettlement program.

On March 25, 2008, the first Bhutanese refugee to make it to the United States as part of the resettlement program arrived in Pittsburgh. The program was intended to break the logjam that had left about 108,000 refugees stagnating in camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s. More than 43,500 of these refugees have been resettled, including more than 37,000 to the United States, and there’s no denying they have opportunities they could hardly have imagined even five years ago that have dramatically improved their lives.

But, based on what many of the refugees told me when I interviewed them in Nepal, resettlement was not their first choice; they wanted to go home.

Yet the Bhutanese government has not allowed a single one to return.

In the late 1980s, the Bhutanese government enacted a “one nation, one people” campaign that arbitrarily stripped the citizenship of a large portion of the Bhutanese Nepali-speaking minority known as Lhotshampas. By the end of 1990, the “Bhutanization” campaign had escalated to harassment, arrests and the burning of ethnic Nepali homes. Many fled, but the army also expelled tens of thousands, forcing them to sign forms renouncing any claims to their homes and homeland.

Should none of these refugees be allowed to return to Bhutan, it would send a terrible message: that a government can get away with a mass expulsion of its population on ethnic lines with no consequences at all.

Glossed over by its image as a peaceable Shangri-La, Bhutan has escaped international scrutiny and censure, and with each passing year memories of the ethnic cleansing fade and accountability seems more and more to slip away. Bhutan has continued steadfastly to refuse any responsibility for expelling its people and creating a huge stateless population. In July 2010, Prime Minister Jigme Y Thinley referred to the refugees as illegal immigrants. Read More…

Posted by: lokmahara | June 25, 2012

What is Canada doing to help Bhutanese refugees?

Bhutanese refugee camp

Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s. Canada is part of a group of seven countries which includes Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and the United States which are taking steps to address this long-standing situation by resettling some of these refugees.

In May 2007, the Government of Canada announced that it would resettle up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next three to five years.

In June 2012, the Government announced that it would resettle up to 500 more refugees whose only family connections are in Canada.

In total, Canada will resettle up to 5,500 Bhutanese refugees who have been living for nearly two decades in U.N. run camps.

Canada’s resettlement program

The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening Canada’s role as a global leader in refugee protection by enhancing our resettlement programs.

Canada operates a global resettlement program and resettles refugees from about 70 different nationalities.

The Government is also increasing the number of refugees resettled from abroad by 20% or by 2,500 refugees. By 2013, Canada will resettle as many as 14,500 refugees a year. Read More…

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