Nepali Times
From The Nepali Press
Resettlement trap


We don't understand whether the Nepal government doesn't regard the Bhutani refugee issue as a priority, or if it's being eclipsed by domestic political concerns.

The refugee issue has been raised in parliament following April's restoration of government, and civil society's 12-point mandate to the government gave us some hope. The seven-party alliance and even the Maoists seemed extremely positive. But now nothing has happened and we are concerned. The longer we wait, the greater the chances of a conspiracy.

International powers are trying to take advantage of the fluidity of the current situation to make the 100,000 refugees stateless. Thimpu tries to confuse matters and buy time. Its attention is focused on not taking back the citizens it unjustly evicted and avoiding a threat to its government. It is their aim is to let the refugees disappear in Nepal or migrate under the guise of third-country resettlement, and it has mobilised the Indian and western governments to do this.

The saddest part is that even UNHCR's Nepal representative, Abraham Abraham, is openly speaking the language of the Bhutani regime. A person whose salary is paid by Nepali and Bhutani citizens's contributions to the UN and who is an employee of an international institution is openly critical of the Nepal government. Who gave him that right? Why is the government quiet about an international civil servant who openly criticises it, and conspires against the refugees?

Abraham has no desire to solve the refugee crisis. He gets away with saying things like: "a large number of refugees trying to return to Bhutan will endanger peace and security". Is Bhutan's internal security the responsibility of the Home Ministry in Thimphu or Mr Abraham? Europeans and the Americans are suddenly backing the Abraham plan and conspiring against us.

The Bhutani refugees had to travel through India to enter Nepal. The Indians, who helped the Bhutani regime then are now blocking the same refugees from going home. On third-country resettlement, our view is clear: it is unjust to take able-bodied, smart literate citizens (who would be a thorn in the side of the Bhutani regime) to developed rich third countries, and leave the sick and illiterate, children and the elderly in Nepal. The Nepal government should oppose this plan. We are against it, and can think of no alternative but to return to Bhutan.

It is sad to see a UN official act like the organ of the Bhutani state. Or to see so-called civilised European countries and the US assist in this plan. Instead of opposing the forced eviction of citizens and making Bhutan take back its people, it is difficult to understand why these countries are actually helping the unjust dictators.

Third-country resettlement is a trap, and falling into it or being forced into it by the international community will only let the unjust dictators in Bhutan who created this problem to get away with it. We are greatly saddened by the international community's role in allowing this to happen.

In summary, third-country resettlement will:
. Give sanction to the Bhutani king's atrocity
. Encourage the Bhutan regime to evict more people it doesn't like
. Take only the best and brightest to third countries and leave the rest high and dry in Nepal
. Split the refugee community and deepen their sense of injustice, which is neither in the interest of the Nepal government nor that of the refugees.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)