• Text size Normal size text | Increase text size by 10% | Increase text size by 20% | Increase text size by 30%

Resettlement programme for refugees in Nepal passes 40,000 mark

News Stories, 13 December 2010

© UNHCR/P.Baidya
Devi Maya (left), the 40,000th refugee originating from Bhutan to be resettled from Nepal, does some last minute packing.

KATHMANDU, Nepal, December 13 (UNHCR) A programme launched three years ago to resettle tens of thousands of refugees from camps in eastern Nepal on Monday passed the 40,000 mark.

Devi Maya Gurung was named as the 40,000th refugee to be resettled from Nepal shortly before stepping onto a plane at Kathmandu's Tribhuvan International Airport to start a new life with her family in the United States.

She was among a group of 198 refugees originating from Bhutan to be resettled. They flew out a day before UNHCR celebrates its 60th anniversary.

The mother of four, Devi Maya, had been living in the Beldangi One camp since 1992 after fleeing from ethnic tension in Bhutan. "I was confused about my future when we first applied for resettlement. After having gone through the process and the cultural orientation I am reassured that we will do well," the 39-year-old said.

"This is a tremendous achievement which would not have been possible without the strong support of the government of Nepal and the countries of resettlement," said Stephane Jaquemet, UNHCR's representative in Nepal, at a ceremony organized by the refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Kathmandu.

Under a programme launched in November 2007, refugees originating from Bhutan have been resettled in eight countries, most of them 34,129 to the United States. The other resettlement countries in rank are Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.

The UN refugee agency is responsible for interviewing people and referring names to resettlement countries, while the IOM conducts health assessments, organizes cultural orientation courses and transports the refugees from the seven camps in eastern Nepal to their countries of resettlement.

"Our job is to ensure that refugees depart as quickly as possible," said IOM's David Derthick. "Once a refugee family has made the decision to apply for resettlement, they're anxious to start their new life as soon as possible."

At the start of the resettlement programme, there were 108,000 refugees from Bhutan residing in the camps in eastern Nepal's Jhapa and Morang districts, some of whom had been there for almost two decades.

Of the 72,000 remaining in the camps, about 55,000 have expressed an interest in resettlement and are expected to depart within the next four years. "We continue to receive a steady stream of expressions of interest for resettlement," Jaquemet said. "And the positive aspect of this resettlement programme is that the acceptance rate by the countries of resettlement is 99 per cent, the highest in the world," he added.

"I am very happy to get this opportunity. I hope my family will get a better life in the United States," said 43-year-old Dhan Kumar Ghataney, who also left Monday for the US with his wife and two children. "I am optimistic that I will find employment and my children will get a better education," he added.

While resettlement is currently the only available option for refugees in the camps in eastern Nepal, UNHCR, together with the international community, will continue efforts to achieve comprehensive and lasting solutions to the plight of refugees from Bhutan, including voluntary repatriation as and when return conditions permit.

By Pratibedan Baidya and Nini Gurung in Kathmandu, Nepal

• DONATE NOW •

 

• GET INVOLVED • • STAY INFORMED •

UNHCR country pages

Resettlement

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

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.