As the large-scale resettlement program for Bhutanese refugees draws to a close, the Australian Ambassador to Nepal, Peter G. Budd, visited the Bhutanese refugee camps of Far Eastern Nepal on Tuesday. During the trip, Budd met with Bhutanese refugees and observed programs designed to increase their self-reliance, while supporting the Nepali host community.
Australia has been an important partner of the Government of Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), resettling almost 6,500 Bhutanese refugees to Australia. Ambassador Budd chairs the Bhutan Core Group in Kathmandu, which includes senior diplomats from embassies that advocate for solutions to the Bhutanese refugee situation.
The New Zealand Honorary Consul to Nepal, Lisa Choegyal, also participated in the mission. The Government of New Zealand has resettled 1,076 Bhutanese persons and continues to be a major supporter of UNHCR.
Since 2007, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have joined forces to collectively resettle almost 110,000 refugees to date – representing more than 9 in 10 Bhutanese refugees. Globally, far less than 1% of refugees are resettled.
“The resettlement program for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal represents an extraordinary demonstration of international solidarity,” said Ambassador Budd. “With the conclusion of the resettlement program, I am hopeful that space has been created for the pursuit of alternative solutions.”
UNHCR projects that approximately 112,000 Bhutanese refugees will be resettled from Eastern Nepal by 2018, with an estimated 8,000 refugees remaining in the camps. Currently 9,500 Bhutanese refugees reside in Nepal – a dramatic reduction from the 120,000 refugees to whom Nepal has generously provided asylum since the early 1990s.
“At this juncture, the international community looks to the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan to engage in dialogue to achieve solutions for the remaining refugee population,” said Kevin J. Allen, UNHCR Representative in Nepal, who accompanied Budd during his visit. “UNHCR and the Bhutan Core Group stand ready to support the process.”
According to a press release issued by UNHCR, over 65.6 million persons are forcibly displaced globally – the highest number observed since World War II. With ongoing humanitarian crises in places like Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, the international community faces unprecedented challenges addressing humanitarian needs.
In 2017, UNHCR and partners are increasingly focused on education, health and livelihoods initiatives which aim to increase the self-reliance of Bhutanese refugees – and further enhance their ability to contribute to society.