Refugees demur UNHCR resettlement plan drive
Bhutanese refugees who signed up for the third country resettlement programme but are yet to actually make a commitment to fly abroad, are being urged by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to make up their mind within one month. The UNHCHR has started sending its employees to refugee camps to expedite the process.
The Bhutanese exiles, however, claimed that people in favour of repatriation are being pressed by the UN agency to sign up for the resettlement plan, and not those who have not followed up on the process after filling up the forms in the past.
“A relative of mine, who agreed to move to the US four years ago, has not been given an opportunity to sit for the interview till date. But as for me, someone who is waiting to return home, I am frequently being asked by UNHCR people to sign the resettlement form,” Datta Bahadur Bhujel, a refugee at Beldangi-2 said. According to refugees, the drive is aimed at coercing pro-repatriation refugees into taking up the third country resettlement plan. They said only those refugees, who are waiting to return to Bhutan, are being approached by the UN agency. A UNHCR representative, however, refuted the claim and said the campaign was being organised to complete the resettlement process of those people who did not get back into the programme after signing up earlier.
“Of the around 26,000 refugees in the resettlement waiting list, many of them have either gone inactive or are still uncertain about the programme. We are only conducting a survey to verify the percentage of refugees who are interested (in the resettlement plan) and who are not,” liaison officer for the UNHCR Nini Gurung.
A bulletin published by the UNHCR on September 17 says that names of refugees who have signed up for the programme, but now informs the UN officers that s/he is not interested in the plan, will be removed from the waiting list.
Though the UNHCR usually publishes bulletins and directives through the Refugee Camp Management Committee, the latest one came straight from the UNHCR, without the committee being consulted. “The UNHCR started circulating the resettlement forms without our knowledge. We now doubt the UNHCR’s intentions,” said Sanchhahang Subba, secretary of the Beldangi camp. UNHCR records show that 83,000 refugee s have already left Nepal, 26,000 are in the resettlement list, while 12,000 are waiting for repatriation.