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.

UNHCR Resettlement Handbook and Country Chapters

July 2011 edition of the UNHCR Resettlement Handbook.

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

Going home

During the past two weeks, UNHCR has worked with the Tunisian government, Tunisian Red Crescent and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to respond to the dramatic influx of over 90,000 people fleeing the violence in Libya. The majority are migrant workers from Egypt, Tunisia, Bangladesh, China, Thailand and Vietnam. Tens of thousands were flown home following an appeal from UNHCR and IOM to governments to send flights to evacuate them.

Going home

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

This gallery highlights the history of UNHCR's efforts to help some of the world's most disenfranchised people to find a place called home, whether through repatriation, resettlement or local integration.

After decades of hospitality after World War II, as the global political climate changed and the number of people cared for by UNHCR swelled from around one million in 1951, to more than 27 million people in the mid-1990s, the welcome mat for refugees was largely withdrawn.

Voluntary repatriation has become both the preferred and only practical solution for today's refugees. In fact, the great majority of them choose to return to their former homes, though for those who cannot do so for various reasons, resettlement in countries like the United States and Australia, and local integration within regions where they first sought asylum, remain important options.

This gallery sees Rwandans returning home after the 1994 genocide; returnees to Kosovo receiving reintegration assistance; Guatemalans obtaining land titles in Mexico; and Afghans flocking home in 2003 after decades in exile.

A Place to Call Home(Part 2): 1996 - 2003

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.
A new life for refugees from BhutanPlay video

A new life for refugees from Bhutan

They fled to Nepal from Bhutan amid ethnic tensions in the early 1990s. Now, many of the slightly more than 100,000 refugees have been offered the possibility of resettlement to another country.