Aussie and NZ diplomats visit refugee camps

As the large-scale resettlement programme for exiled Bhutanese draws to a close, the Australian Ambassador to Nepal Peter G. Budd visited the Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal on Tuesday where he met with exiled Bhutanese and observed programmes designed to increase their self-reliance, while supporting the Nepali host community.

Australia has been an important partner of the Government of Nepal and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), resettling almost 6,500 exiled Bhutanese to Australia. Ambassador Budd chairs the Bhutan Core Group in Kathmandu, which includes senior diplomats from embassies that advocate for solutions to the Bhutanese refugee situation.

The New Zealand Honorary Consul to Nepal, Lisa Choegyal, also joined in the mission. The Government of New Zealand has resettled 1,076 exiled Bhutanese and continues to be a major supporter of UNHCR.

Since 2007, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom have joined forces to collectively resettle almost 110,000 exiled Bhutanese to date.

“The resettlement programme for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal represents an extraordinary demonstration of international solidarity,” said Ambassador Budd. “With the conclusion of the resettlement programme, I am hopeful that space has been created for the pursuit of alternative solutions.”

UNHCR projects that approximately 112,000 Bhutanese refugees will be resettled from Eastern Nepal by 2018, with an estimated 8,000 refugees remaining in the camps. Currently 9,500 exiled Bhutanese reside in Nepal – a dramatic reduction from the 120,000 to whom Nepal has generously provided asylum since the early 1990s.

“At this juncture, the international community looks to the Governments of Nepal and Bhutan to engage in dialogue to achieve solutions for the remaining refugee population,” said Kevin J. Allen, UNHCR Representative in Nepal, who accompanied Budd during his visit. “UNHCR and the Bhutan Core Group stand ready to support the process.”

Over 65.6 million persons are forcibly displaced globally – the highest number observed since World War II. With ongoing humanitarian crises in places like Syria, Iraq and South Sudan, the international community faces unprecedented challenges addressing humanitarian needs.

In 2017, UNHCR and partners are increasingly focused on education, health and livelihoods initiatives which aim to increase the self-reliance of Bhutanese refugees – and further enhance their ability to contribute to society.

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