8-14 August 2014 #719

Happier days

Bhutanese refugees resettled in the UK have finally found certainty and stability
Gopal Gartaula in MANCHESTER

For 42-year-old Prem Giri, life is finally back on track. After spending 19 years in a refugee camp in eastern Nepal, Giri’s family was resettled in the UK in 2012 and today has a real home. He has a comfortable house, a good job, and a driving license -- things he could only dream of in his bamboo hut back in Jhapa.

“The life that I have now and the one that I lived in a refugee camp in Nepal is totally different,” says Giri who lived in Samtse district in south Bhutan before being deported with 100,000 other Bhutanese of Nepali origin in 1991.

While living in the camp, Giri taught tuition to pay for his Bachelor’s degree in commerce. When the money wasn’t enough, he cut down on food, going to bed on empty stomach on numerous occasions. But that degree helped him with his enrollment at the University of Sheffield where he studied accounting and finance.

Giri (pic, with his daughter) currently works as a market risk analyst for an investment company while his wife Savitri is a stay-at-home mom. The couple have three children.

Like Giri, there are 358 Bhutanese refugees who have been resettled in the UK. Tara Niraula, 46, is one of them.  As the only Hindu priest in Ashton, Manchester, Niraula makes a good income performing pujas at Nepali households in the area. Niraula spent 20 years in Morang’s Sanischare Camp, Sector A-3 and lives with his family of five. “It didn’t take us long to gel with the Nepali and Indian families here,” says Niraula.

Five minutes away from Niraula’s residence is Junakumar Rai’s house. The 37-year-old moved here from the refugee camp in Beldangi a year and half ago with her family and is currently taking language classes.

The Rai family receives 212 pounds a month as welfare money. “Education is free for the children and you can easily feed one person with 80 pounds a month,” she says, but she is looking for jobs and has already applied to three different places.

Twenty minutes away from Ashton, in Falkland Street is Ganga Bahadur Budathoki’s house where he lives with his family of six. His son, Amit works at a clothing factory and has already managed to buy a car while rest of the members are dependent on welfare.

The Budathoki couple spent a lot of their time in their kitchen garden.“Because it’s summer, we don’t have our language classes so we like to keep busy,” says Budhathoki.

Another Bhutanese refugee living on Washington Road is Kamal Kumar Gurung and his family. The Gurungs moved to the UK three years ago and Kamalkumar who works in the food industry earns 51 pounds a day. Gurung says his earnings are enough to pay for his family. “Life is good, we are eating good food and living without any worry.”

Ayesha Shakya

After 15 rounds of failed talks between the Nepal and Bhutan government regarding repatriation of Bhutanese refugees, the third country settlement program was started in 2008. Along with the US, Europe has also been taking in Bhutanese refugees.

Read also:


Huddled masses yearning to rejoin families

State of statelessness

Those who want to stay

No refugee when refugees leave

Gross National Shame

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