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Bhutanese refugees urge govts at all levels to resolve their problems

- ARJUN RAJBANSHI, DAMAK
The refugees say that the facilities of health, education and drinking water have been curtailed in their camps

Apr 10, 2018-Bhutanese refugees living in the camps in Jhapa and Morang districts have requested the governments at all three levels to swiftly resolve their problems.

They submitted memorandums to the municipality chiefs in Damak and Pathari Shanischare, Province 1 chief minister as well as foreign minister, home minister and prime minister, demanding a permanent solution to their problems.

The refugees complain that they have been compelled to live in the camp, enduring numerous hardships for the last 26 years. They accused the Nepal government of not being serious about settling their problems, mainly the issue of repatriation. A team including Secretary of Beldangi Camp Tikaram Rasaili and Secretary of Pathari Sanischare Camp Champa Singh Rai submitted a memorandum to Province 1 Chief Minister Sherdhan Rai last week.

The refugees said the facilities like health, education and drinking water have also been curtailed in their camps. “All health services were available in the camp earlier, but only the emergency service is available now,” said Champa Singh Rai, adding that children of the camps can study only up to grade eight. “In the past, there was a school that provides secondary level education to the students.”

They also complained that the World Food Program, which has been providing food assistance to the Bhutanese refugees since 1992, had cut food rations to the families in the camps. “Now, the WFP provides only 9kg of rice to the refugees for 28 days. In the past, the refugees were receiving salt, cooking oil, vegetables, sugar and other daily essentials with rice. As a result, the refugees are facing a lot of difficulties,” said Champa Singh Rai.

Earlier last week, a team of Bhutan Swatantra Forum had gone to Kathmandu where they requested Prime Minister KP Oli to take initiatives for resolving their problems. They also met Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali and Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa in Kathmandu and submitted memorandums. The refugees have requested the government to hold another round of talks with the Bhutanese government for their repatriation. They have also demanded resumption of third country resettlement programme and ID cards for the refugees. The chiefs of all three levels of governments are positive towards their demands.

The UN refugee agency in Kathmandu closed the third-country resettlement scheme after the last batch of refugees left the country by the end of December 2017. Nepal hosted more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees since early 1990s in seven camps in eastern Nepal. With the large-scale third-country resettlement under way since 2007, there are still around 2,115 refugee families living in Beldangi, Damak and Pathari Sanischare in Morang.

Out of the remaining refugees, some 2,000 want to go back to Bhutan. A total of 1,641 refugees are staying without refugee ID cards.

Published: 10-04-2018 08:46

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