This site provides complete and authentic information on the origin, causes, and current situation about Bhutanese refugees.

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Racism discrimination, exclusion, alienation preference based on descent, race and ethnic origin, are hallmark Bhutanese state policy. This is creating untold misery for the Lhotshampas and the Sharchhop population in Bhutan. State sponsored apartheid  laws and policies have  remained a major stumbling block in the repatriation of Bhutanese refugees and the realisation of human rights by various ethnic, linguistic and religious  groups  in Bhutan. The  total elimination and mass expulsion of Nepali speaking Lhotshampa citizens of southern Bhutan is the target of the racist Drukpa regime .The Drukpa led Royal regime harbours racial hatred  against Lhotshampas for organising protests against the racial  policies of  Royal Government of Bhutan (RGOB).The Lhotshampas were forced to leave their country not because of civil war or foreign intervention but because of the racist and ethnocentric policies of those in power. Bhutanese refugees are not the root cause of themselves , they are the effects or symptom of the deep-rooted crisis of a racist Bhutanese polity, which stresses the need for a distinct 'national identity' but does not envision forging this identity to encompass the diversity of the nation's cultures. The ruling elite want to colonise the minority  cultures by hegemony domination, repression and eviction.


Nepal had outlined three options for solving the Bhutanese refugee problem.

  • Solution to be sought through bilateral talk.,

  • Seeking  Indian assistance and 

  • Internationalization of Bhutanese refugee  issue. 

Pursuant to first option it sought bilateral initiative. It held nine round of bilateral negotiations with Bhutan without any success. Bhutan’s recalcitrance and intransigence had pushed the Bhutan-Nepal Joint Ministerial Level Committee (JMC) bilateral talk on repatriation of Bhutanese refugees to deadlock in the past.  Bhutan instead of cooperating with Nepal for the resolution of refugee issue, was deliberately procrastinating the repatriation process through never-ending bilateral talks, while it  campaigned among the international for disbanding of refugee camps and assimilation of  refugees in Nepal.


India said that the refugee issue is technically a bilateral issue and it be resolved through bilateral initiatives. It refused to be involved in the issue.   


Since the first two options became almost redundant the only option left was internationalisation of the refugee issue.  The refugee problem persisted too long and the bilateral talk was dawdling, demanding an immediate internationalization of the refugee issue. Tired of end-less and futile Nepal-Bhutan bilateral talk,  Bhutanese refugees  started seeking direct intervention of international community to mitigate their suffering. The Bhutanese refugee issue was getting internationalised through the refugees’ own efforts, since they knew that only support from the world community would be able to make a difference. On the need of international mediation on Bhutanese refugee issue, Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch, USA aptly wrote in the American  Wall Street Journal 6/8/99 thus,  “ The lesson of  Bhutan and other refugee crisis around the world is that refugees return only if other countries make it happen. The bright glare of the outside attention is the key”. Bhutanese refugee situation could not be more different from Kosovo. He said that the Kosovar refugees get more importance because of their European extraction.


Bhutan came under an increasing pressure from the international community due to its uncooperative and un-accomodative attitude,  to resolve the refugee impasse. That Bhutan was under increased international pressure was evident from the second resolution of the European Parliament (EP), concerns expressed in the Round Table Meeting (RTM) of Bhutan’s development partners and the recommendation of the United States of America. The  European Parliament passed two resolutions on the refugee issue in March 1996 and September 2000. ( Please see the Resolutions)


European Parliament: The European Parliament, denouncing the deplorable situation of Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal, called on the governments of Bhutan and Nepal, in cooperation with all other parties involved, speed up the process of repatriation of refugees to their country of origin. It urged the Bhutanese authorities to accept the UNHCR compromise for a speedy verification and time-bound repatriation.  It recognised the goodwill of Nepal in accepting the refugees "who are the victims of arbitrary deprivation of nationality and forcible eviction , who came to Nepal through India, and also urged Indian authorities not to consider the Bhutanese refugee issue as one of the bilateral matters and help resolve the refugee issue.


Donors’ Concerns: The Seventh Round Table Meeting (RTM) of development partners for Bhutan was held in Thimphu Bhutan on 7-9 November 2000. Some donor nations and agencies made statement on discrimination against Lhotshampas and on the refugee issue.


The Danish delegation said that the Nepalese speaking Lhotshampas reported to have been treated as second class citizens, were retrenched from the government service, are not being provided citizenship or identity cards and are being denied education, government employment or trade licenses due to the lack of security-clearance. Several other allegations of discrimination are being mentioned. He said that Bhutan should eliminate discriminatory laws and practices so that all permanent residents of Bhutan can be fully integrated into Bhutanese society. The Austrian diplomat said "commercial refugees" in the context of Europe should not be confused with the ‘status of minorities’ (Lhotshampas), residing in the country for many years and respecting its leadership and the government. Austria supports the cause that refugees in Nepal should go back home. Only a policy of inclusion of all groups in the development of Bhutan will produce long -term sustainability in economic, social and political field of Bhutan, he said.


Dutch diplomat said that encouragement of freedom of expression, press, organisation does not imply violation of Bhutan’s consensus-culture, which will be good for conflict resolution. It may be noted that Bhutan does not allow freedom of speech, expression, press and organisation in the country. Japanese diplomat said that his country believed in a fair and equitable solution of refugee problems.


US PROPOSAL: The much overdue  American attention and concern about the Bhutanese refugee issue came through the proposal of the Assistant Secretaries of the US State Department for South Asia Karl Inderfurth and the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration Julia Taft who visited Nepal and Bhutan in November/ December, 2000. The US government came up with a fresh proposal in an attempt to speed up the never-started process of repatriation.


Taft proposed to "identify the refugees and the head of a nuclear family, who would then identify the members of his/her family. Having agreed upon this, they could proceed on with an actual verification process and determine which of the four categories of the nuclear family, identified by the family head, are qualified to go home". This statement almost comes closer to Nepal’s proposal. In his letters, Bill Clinton urged Bhutan to reach an agreement with Nepal to begin the process of verification for the repatriation of refugees during the Tenth Round in Kathmandu. If Bhutan fails to agree to the US proposal, the US has said it would urge multilateral donors to divert international aid from Bhutan to the refugee camps through UNHCR.


As a result of international pressure Bhutan agreed to constitute the Joint Verification Team (JVT) on March 26, 2001. The JVT has been interviewing refugees since then. But the process of JVT is too slow. No time-frame has been agreed on when to complete the verification process. It will take more than a decade to repatriate refugees, if the pace of current verification is not increased.


The challenge for the international community now is to monitor that the verification process is fair, equitable and time-bound and to keep continuous pressure on Bhutan until all refugees can go back home.


Please Click on Joint Verification for continuity

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