In the period between 1992 and 2006, fifteen rounds of bilateral talks were held between the Bhutanese and Nepalese governments. However, the talks did not result in a conclusive durable solution. By 2006, hopes of repatriation were fading. Acting on a suggestion by a Jesuit working with the JRS, the international community proposed a durable solution in the form of resettlement. Since then, 92,000 Bhutanese refugees have gone for resettlement in eight countries across the world, most notably in the United States of America.
Resettlement has affected education back in the camps in more ways than one. Teachers and students alike get their travel documents during the academic year; those still in the camps are always anticipating their own departure and the pool of resource people that the Education Program had nurtured in the past is fast depleting.
Six years after the resettlement began, there are 26,000 refugees plus remaining in the camps. Of these, a majority has applied for resettlement. Many are keen on joining their families and friends abroad. The market place is dotted with money-transfer agencies and conversations usually revolve round travel dates and host countries. Perhaps paradoxically, the national anthem of Bhutan is sung every morning in the camp schools. There are some refugees who think that resettlement deviates the focus from repatriation – a solution that many still cling to as their right, although it has been resolutely denied to them for so long. Then there are those who think that integration in Nepal is the next best alternative, given their historical and cultural ties with this country.
Repatriation to Bhutan seems to be a distant, unlikely possibility. Integration in Nepal is easier said than done. The government does not seem open to the idea in a country that has its own infrastructural and economic issues, where jobs are scarce and where allocating land to refugees is a prospect that cannot be easily realized. That said, those refugees who stay behind, will surely be welcomed and will be able to contribute to the life of the local community… this not least because over the years, humanitarian agencies have made conscious efforts to build bridges through joint activities and support for the local people.
The Bhutanese refugees have been on life support for 22 years. What happens to those who cannot or do not want to access the durable solution of resettlement? They deserve a new life no less than their brothers and sisters who have gone to third countries, a new life that guarantees their dignity and their human rights. They deserve to be truly part of a country where they can give and take.
However, as things stand now, their future is uncertain and no one knows what will become of them.
|Chin National Day|
|Dedication to women's issues|
|Education for all|
|Herat Technical Institute|
|Online education, an alternative|
|Building self reliance|
|Walking with displaced people and walking with God|