A Fresh Start: refugees from Bhutan arrive in the UK

News Stories, 9 August 2010

© IOM/Kari Collins
Refugees from Bhutan begin the long journey to their new home at a transit centre in Kathmandu.

Kathmandu, Nepal, 09 August (UNHCR) The resettlement of refugees from Bhutan to the United Kingdom started on Monday with 37 people flying out of Nepal to their new homeland, under UNHCR's largest resettlement programme.

Fifty-six-year old Narad Muni Pokhrel is amongst the first group to leave for Manchester, UK with his wife and family. "I am happy that I got this opportunity and most importantly that I am going with my entire family," said Narad, sipping tea with his friends at the International Organization for Migration (IOM) Transit Centre in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu. "I am sure that my sons will get jobs and pursue further studies if they wish to."

The families had been living in camps in eastern Nepal along the banks of the Kankai river since the early 1990s, when religious and ethnic persecution in neighbouring Bhutan led to a massive exodus of up to 100,000 ethnic Nepalese. UNHCR launched a resettlement program with the support of the Government of Nepal and resettlement countries in 2007 which has found new homes for 34,500. Another 5,500 are expected to leave before the end of the year.

The UK offered to accept some 100 individuals this year, thus joining the 'Core Group' of eight resettlement countries that has offered resettlement to the refugees from Bhutan.

"The UK has a long history of welcoming people from other countries," the British Chargé D'Affaires, Sophia Willitts-King, said at a ceremony marking the departure. "We know that the diversity it brings makes our country stronger. "

"I am confident that all of you will integrate well into your new host community. I wish you all the best for your new life in the UK and, who knows, 20 years from now one of you might well be in my position representing the UK."

For 17-year-old Man Manya Ghimire, unable to conceal her excitement, resettlement means a new lease on life.

"I have heard that I can get a better education in the UK, which is very important for me," she told me. "I am in Class 10 and if I were to remain in the camps, I would not have the opportunity to pursue my studies beyond Class 10."

"We are extremely grateful to the government of UK for this offer and appreciate the speed of the response by the UK government with this first group of refugees departing only some eight months after the offer was made," said Mr. Stéphane Jaquemet, UNHCR Representative in Nepal.

Some 77,616 refugees from Bhutan remain in seven camps in eastern Nepal.

Of these, over 56,400 individuals have declared an interest in resettlement.

The United States has so far accepted 29,496, Canada 1,877, Australia 1,787, New Zealand 461, Norway 335, Denmark 326, and the Netherlands 224. "We hope that other countries would also consider resettling refugees from Bhutan," Mr. Jaquemet added,

The resettlement programme is the result of cooperation between the Government of Nepal, the IOM, resettlement countries, and UNHCR.

"IOM is proud to assist in giving these refugees a new start in life," said Mr. Sarat Dash, IOM Chief of Mission in Nepal. By spearheading the resettlement of refugees like Pokhrel and Ghimire, the UNHCR is giving hope to refugees stuck in protracted situations in camps around the world.

By Nini Gurung and Pratibedan Baidya in Kathmandu

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

Resettlement

An alternative for those who cannot go home, made possible by UNHCR and governments.

Related Internet Links

UNHCR is not responsible for the content and availability of external internet sites

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Between February and October 2011, more than 1 million people crossed into Tunisia to escape conflict in Libya. Most were migrant workers who made their way home or were repatriated, but the arrivals included refugees and asylum-seekers who could not return home or live freely in Tunisia.

UNHCR has been trying to find solutions for these people, most of whom ended up in the Choucha Transit Camp near Tunisia's border with Libya. Resettlement remains the most viable solution for those registered as refugees at Choucha before a cut-off date of December 1, 2011.

As of late April, 14 countries had accepted 2,349 refugees for resettlement, 1,331 of whom have since left Tunisia. The rest are expected to leave Choucha later this year. Most have gone to Australia, Norway and the United States. But there are a more than 2,600 refugees and almost 140 asylum-seekers still in the camp. UNHCR continues to advocate with resettlement countries to find solutions for them.

Resettlement from Tunisia's Choucha Camp

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

When bombs started raining down on Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, the Khawan family had to flee. According to Ahmad, the husband of Najwa and father of their two children, the town was in ruins within 24 hours.

The family fled to Lebanon where they shared a small flat with Ahmad's two brothers and sisters and their children. Ahmad found sporadic work which kept them going, but he knew that in Lebanon his six-year-old son, Abdu, who was born deaf, would have little chance for help.

The family was accepted by Germany's Humanitarian Assistance Programme and resettled into the small central German town of Wächtersbach, near Frankfurt am Main. Nestled in a valley between two mountain ranges and a forest, the village has an idyllic feel.

A year on, Abdu has undergone cochlear implant surgery for the second time. He now sports two new hearing aids which, when worn together, allow him to hear 90 per cent. He has also joined a regular nursery class, where he is learning for the first time to speak - German in school and now Arabic at home. Ahmed is likewise studying German in a nearby village, and in two months he will graduate with a language certificate and start looking for work. He says that he is proud at how quickly Abdu is learning and integrating.

Abdu finds his voice in Germany

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

On Wednesday, Germany launched a humanitarian programme to provide temporary shelter and safety to up to 5,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries. A first group of 107 flew to Hanover in the northern city of Hanover. They will attend cultural orientation courses to prepare them for life over the next two years in Germany, where they will be able to work, study and access basic services. Among the group are Ahmad and his family, including a son who is deaf and needs constant care that was not available in Lebanon. The family fled from Syria in late 2012 after life became too dangerous and too costly in the city of Aleppo, where Ahmad sold car spare parts. Photographer Elena Dorfman followed the family in Beirut as they prepared to depart for the airport and their journey to Germany.

Through the Clouds to Germany: One Syrian Family's Journey

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlementPlay video

Celebrating 10 years of refugee resettlement

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehousePlay video

Iraq: Uprooted and living in a warehouse

An Iraqi man who turned down resettlement to the U.S. in 2006 tells how it feels now to be a "refugee" in his own country, in limbo, hoping to restart life in another Iraqi city.
Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New LifePlay video

Emergency Resettlement – One Family's Journey to a New Life

After their family fled Syria, young brothers Mohamed and Youssef still were not safe. Unable to access medical treatment for serious heart and kidney conditions, they and the rest of their family were accepted for emergency resettlement to Norway.