|Bhutanese Refugees: If Repatriation Fails, Will Integration and Resettlement Succede?
|| PRINTABLE VERSION
| More than 20 million people worldwide have been languishing as refugees in UNHCR run camps. These people include both internally and externally displaced ones. As the frequency of conflicts and wars 're rising, it is less likely that the flood of refugees would recede anytime soon.
Nepal shelters hundred thousand plus Lhotshampas ( Southern Bhutanese refugees) since early 90s . Past decade has elapsed into pure nothingness -- in a bid to resolve the crisis through bilateral negotiations. The hope of repatriation in entirety is seemingly becoming nearly impossible -- given the dilly-dallying tricks and tactics displayed by the sole entity responsible to take them back. Perhaps even the die-hard Jigme loyalist in the camps would not dispute the present scenario's telltale.
At least the officials of the United Nations Refugee Agency, the UNHCR appear to have given up the hope of closing down the camps in eastern Nepal for now counting on the success of the repatriation process alone, which hasn't even begun yet.
The frustration with prolonged failure of the repatriation process is evidently visible among the both the UNHCR officials and Refugee leaders . Perhaps this is the reason why the top officials of the UNHCR are increasingly talking about exploring other alternatives.
There has been a policy shift vis-à-vis Bhutanese refugees in recent years. The rethinking has been going for quite some time but due to lack of concrete commitments from the willing governments and ever stretching hands of the Agency, the other options are left unexplored, a UNHCR official said recently.
The evidence of this policy shift was also dotted a little bit in this years Message of the UN Refugee High Commissioner for the World Refugee Day.
"If the refugee situations drag on for years with no political solution in sight, the enormous potential of whole generations can be lost in the dust of a forgotten camp", High commissioner Rudd Lobers said. "That is one reason I, as UN High commissioner for Refugees, am working so hard to find solutions. These solutions include repatriation, integration in countries of first asylum or resettlement to third countries."
In the Bhutanese Refugees' case the first option is likely to be an utter failure. Despite non-existence of any other factor that would / might hinder the repatriation, except the regime's crystallized "xenophobic" mentality of not letting them [Refugees] in.
The recent alarm raised by the King's handpicked Parliamentarians at the JVT report was a total proof of an impenetrable and unconscionable legislative wall, the Druk regime has constructed to ward off any repatriation. The deliberations in the National Assembly was suggestive enough to label even the Druk members of the JVT as Ngolops (anti-nationals) for daring to put 75 families in the category.
The second option: integration in the country of first asylum is not entirely practical. India must have been the first choice for country of asylum but by default Nepal is. As she is already struggling to integrate the freed kamaiyas (bonded-labourers), refugees would only add to the already cumbersome situation. But then again Nepal cannot shy away completely from some share of refugees, if the international community and the UNHCR agrees to. A total and full integration is impossible and unimaginable as well, unless India shoulders a portion of the burden. But will it? India has always evaded from committing itself for a durable solution of the refugee impasse.
The only viable solution left before the United Nations High Commission For Refugees (UNHCR) and the International Community then would be a resettlement drive in third countries. The United States has reportedly indicated that it would accept a portion of the Bhutanese refugees if the resettlement option is resorted to. Julia Taft, one of the United Nations (UNDP) Directors told recently a public meeting in New York that a US government official had intimated her regarding its willingness. No concrete commitments have been forwarded so far. Other willing countries were named as Canada, European Union Countries and few more from the Oceania.
Hiram Ruiz, the Communication Director of the United States Committee for Refugees (USCR), in his latest visit to camps has pledged to lobby with the US government for the resettlement, should such a recourse is adopted.
In case of the resettlement drive as well, India and Nepal would 've to be recipients of a bigger bulk of the camp inhabitants. The inevitability of the Indian role, as always puts a big Question mark over any possible solution.
If the repatriation fails , will the integration and resettlement succeed ? In the words of the High Commissioner Lobers, "achieving such solutions requires the co-operation of the entire international community --- rich and poor, North and South."
In this case only if the South co-operates will a durable solution be reached quickly.
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John Narayan Parajuli
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