First congressional briefing in US

Audience of panel discussion at Capitol Hill. Photo: Balaram Gurung
Audience of panel discussion at Capitol Hill. Photo: Balaram Gurung

More than two dozens resettled American-Bhutanese delegates from 14 cities representing 10 different States of the US attended the congressional briefing on Bhutanese refugees issue in Washington DC.

Delegates presented issues on domestic and foreign policies and requested US State Department, Senate Officials and Congress members for their help towards finding permanent solution on the protracted Bhutanese refugee problem.

The delegates met US State Department officials and apprised on the domestic and foreign related issues, and appeal for playing a vital role by exhorting adequate diplomatic pressure on Bhutan so as to ensure no injustice and human suffering continues in the land of “Gross National Happiness”.

Mr. Madhav Sharma, Chairman of Bhutanese American Organization of Philadelphia gave an overview of his personal story of becoming a refugee from his native land, his life in the refugee camp in Nepal and in the US now.

He also highlighted domestic issues of resettled refugees such as language barrier faced by adult and elderly refugees, citizenship test preparation difficulties, unemployment problem and other post resettlement stressors.

Dr Chhabilal Sharma, Bhutanese Psychiatrist based in Minnesota highlighted the need for increased appropriations for the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR) to fund specific programs that address the mental health, economic, and cultural needs of Bhutanese refugees. He also emphasised the language barrier faced by Bhutanese Refugee elders.

Mangala Sharma, Bhutanese woman activist raised issues related to resettled women and children and emphasised on skills development, in a bid to stabilise families to address post-resettlement stressors.

Narad Adhikari mentioned that bilateral negotiation between Bhutan and Nepal has no more relevance and needs to be repealed now in order to open doors for other international agencies and governments to involve and engage directly to work in a broader prospective to find out a satisfactory and justifiable solution on the Bhutanese issue.

Parangkush Subedi urged the State Department to put international pressure on the Bhutanese government to protect the linguistic, cultural, religious, and civil rights of all ethnic and religious minorities in Bhutan, democratise and allow open participation by all political parties, including political parties in exile.

He stressed the need for direct diplomatic relationship between Bhutan and the US and designate resettled Bhutanese as Non Resident Bhutanese.

The 27 Bhutanese delegates also met Congressmen and their staffs representing Massachusetts, Pennsylvenia, Virginia, Georgia, California, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Indiana, Utah, Maryland, Colorado.

The night before the Congressional Briefing, the documentary ‘The Refugees of Shangrila’ was screened for the general public.

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