Update on April 16, 2004
For MJC press Release please click on
are not born but created by states, individuals and groups.
Sadako Ogata, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
has rightly said that "the issue of human rights and
the problems of refugees are inextricably linked. The vast
majority of refugees are driven from their homes by human
rights abuses. Persecution, torture, killings and the reprehensible
practice of ‘ethnic cleansing’ generate huge flow of refugees".
The Nepali-speaking Bhutanese refugees just fit in her description.
They were driven off from their homes by the racist Bhutanese
government since 1990 -- and over 135,
000 of them, approximately
twenty percent of Bhutan’s population, are now living in the
refugee camps in Nepal.
first official dialogue on the problems of Bhutanese refugees
was held between the Bhutanese King Jigme Singye Wangchuck
and the Nepalese Prime Minister Girija Prasad Koirala on the
sidelines of the seventh SAARC Summit, Dhaka on April 10,
25 April, 1993, Nepal sent a letter to Thimphu expressing
desire to hold direct bilateral talks for resolving Bhutanese
refugees crisis. The two sides then, decided to discuss the
refugee issue bilaterally. Bhutan invited Nepalese delegation
for talks to Thimphu on July 15, 1993. The Nepalese Home Minister
Sher Bahadur Deuba and his Bhutanese counterpart, Dago Tshering
held the first meeting. At the end of meeting, the two ministers
signed a joint statement agreeing to the formation of a six-member
Nepal Bhutan Ministerial Joint Committee ( MJC) comprising three members
from each country. The committee was entrusted with the following
determine the different categories of people claiming
to have come from Bhutan in the refugee camps in eastern
specify the positions of the two governments on each of
these categories .
arrive at a mutually acceptable agreement on each of these
categories, which will provide the basis for the resolution
of the problem. Nepal created blunder by accepting Bhutan’s
September, 1993, the Nepal Bhutan Ministerial Joint
Committee ( MJC) on refugee problems, comprising
Home Minister of both countries was constituted.
Nepal Bhutan Ministerial
was held in
and on October 20-23, 2003 in THimphu respectively.
Please click on the
link to read about the fourteenth ( 14th) and
Fifteenth MJC meetings..
details of First to Thirteenth MJC Meetings are given
MJC Meeting: The first
MJC meeting was held in Kathmandu on October 4-7, 1993. Dago Tshering
and Sher Bahadur Deuba led their respective delegations. The
two sides agreed to place the Bhutanese refugees into four
Bhutanese, if they have been evicted forcefully;
Bhutanese people; and
who have committed criminal acts.
joint statement said that on completion of the verification
of refugees, the two sides would specify their positions on
each categories and reach a mutually acceptable agreement,
which would provide the basis for the resolution of the problem.
However, the verification process of refugees into four categories
has not begun mainly because of Bhutanese intransigence. Nepal
created another blunder by agreeing to categorization.
The second MJC meeting held in Thimphu on February 21-24, 1994, discussed
the "mechanism for verification of the four agreed categories
of people in the refugee camps in Nepal". Nepal proposed
the involvement of a third party, which was rejected by Bhutan.
The succeeding talks thereafter focused on establishment of
verification mechanism and harmonization of positions on categories
of refugees, but in vain.
MJC Meeting: The
third MJC meeting held on April 4-7, 1994 in Kathmandu also did not
go beyond deciding "to determine a mechanism for verification
of the four categories of people in the refugee camps in eastern
Fourth MJC Meeting:
Both sides again failed to harmonise their positions on four
categories of refugees at the fourth MJC meet held in Thimphu
in June, 1994.
Fifth MJC Meeting:
The fifth MJC meeting held in Kathmandu on February 27-March 1, 1995
also failed to reach an agreement on harmonization of two
sides’ position on four categories of refugees. Mr. K P Oli, the
Nepalese Home Minister, led the Nepalese delegation.
Sixth MJC Meeting:
The sixth MJC meet held in Thimphu on April 20, 1995 also received
the same fate as earlier talks.
Seventh MJC Meeting
The Seventh MJC meeting held at the Foreign Ministers’ level in Kathmandu
on April 4-8, 1996 ended in a stalemate. Prakash Chandra Lohani
and Dawa Tsering led their countries at the talks. There was
an interregnum of three and half years between the seventh
and the eighth talks.
Eighth MJC Meeting:
Jigmi Y Thinley, the Bhutanese Foreign Minister and his Nepalese
counterpart Dr Ram Sharan Mahat led their respective delegation
at the eighth talk held in Kathmandu on September 13-16, 1999.
This also concluded in disagreement on verification process.
Bhutan proposed to start verification on a dubious list of
3000 refugees prepared by the UNHCR. Nepal rejecting Bhutan’s
proposal, rightly proposed that the verification should be
started from one of the refugee camps.
Ninth MJC Meeting:
The ninth round of talk held May 22-25,
2000 at Thimphu,
also ended without any breakthrough.. Both sides had agreed
on naming the verification team within 15 days and starting
the verification process within two months. The request for
the 10th round of the MJC meeting scheduled for 25 December came
from Bhutan, facing a mounting international pressure. Many
Bhutanese believe that Bhutan’s gesture is phony and, as usual,
intended to hoodwink the international community. Some significant
developments have taken place concerning refugees since the
Tenth MJC Meeting: The tenth
round of MJC meeting was held on December 25-28, 2000 in Kathmandu.
Bhutanese team was led by its Foreign Minister Jigmi Yozer
Thinlay and the Nepalese delegation was led by Mr. Chakra
Prasad bastola, Foreign Minister of Nepal. The tenth talk
was able to break ice. It decided to create Nepal-Bhutan
refugee Joint Verification Team (JVT).
The Nepalese team, was to be led by Mrs. Usha Nepal,
Joint Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs and
the Bhutanese by Dr. Sonam Tenzin, Director at the
Bhutanese Ministry of Home Affairs. The JVT was created and
started its work of interviewing and verifying 98,886 Bhutanese
refugees from Khudunabari refugee camp in Jhapa on March 26
2001. After trying since 1993 to solve the Bhutanese refugee
question, the 10th round of the Nepal-Bhutan Joint Ministerial
Level Committee held on 25-28 December, 2000
has finally made some progress. It is quite apparent
that the progress made in the 10th talk was due
to mounting international pressure which compelled Bhutan
to search for a compromise. This is evident from the resolution
of the European Parliament in September, concern expressed
by donors on refugee issue at the Round Table Meeting of the
Bhutan aid consortium held in Bhutan
from 7-9 November 2000 and the interest shown by the
United States in
solving the refugee problem.
Eleventh MJC Meeting : The eleventh round of MJC was
held in Thimphu, the capital of Bhutan on August 20-23, 2001.
The Nepalese team was led by its Finance Minister Dr Ram
Sharan Mahat and Jigmi Yozer Thinlay led Bhutanese team. On
his return form Bhutan, Finance Minister Dr Ram Sharan Mahat
said that Nepal and Bhutan have agreed to begin the
repatriation of Bhutanese refugees of Khudunabari camp by
October. However, Nepal’s proposals to reduce the categories
of the refugees into Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese was not
accepted by Bhutan. The verification will go further only
after the completion of the process in one camp, Dr. Mahat
told media persons at the airport. The Finance Minister exuded
the confidence that two neighbors have agreed to "accelerate
the verification process" and said, "We expect that the
verification process will now be two times faster or at least
80 per cent quicker than the current pace."
Another significant agreement
during the 11th MJC meet in Thimphu was delegation of more
authority to the JVT. Now, the JVT can take minor decisions on
disputes instead of referring them to the ministerial level. Despite these agreements on speeding up the verification
process, the MJC meeting failed to fulfill Nepal’s demand.
Nepal and Bhutan have differences of opinion and
interpretation on the categorization of the refugees. At
present, there are four categories – Bhutanese, non-Bhutanese,
Bhutanese who willingly emigrated and the Bhutanese with
criminal records. Nepal has been insisting on retaining only
the first two categories but Bhutan did not agree to Nepal’s
proposal during the present meeting.
In short the Eleventh MJC meet
also failed to speedup the process of verification.
After almost four months of work, the JVT has managed to
verify only 940 families and 5,913 individuals as of 10th
August 2001. The average rate of interview as of August 2001
comes to 10 families per day. At this pace, it will
take six years of 260 working days per year to complete just
the interviews of all the refugee families. No refugee believe
that the JVT will ever facilitate the repatriation of
Twelfth MJC Meeting: Under
sustained international pressure, the Nepal-Bhutan Joint
Verification Team ( JVT) was formed. The verification of over
12,000 refugees living in Khudunabari undertaken by the Joint
Verification Team (JVT) on March 26, 2001 was completed on
December 14, 2001. Ninety percent of verified Bhutanese
refugees could produce documents to prove their origin to
Bhutan. Since, a year passed, neither the result of
verification of refugees has been made public nor the
verification of the remaining camps have been started.
Meanwhile, the verified
refugees launched an indefinite relay hunger strike in Khudunabari camp on
January 07, 2003, demanding the immediate publication of verification results,
repatriation of verified refugees and commencement of verification in the
remaining six camps. A group of verified refugees visited the diplomatic
community based in Nepal and lobbied for internationalization of refugee issue.
Then suddenly in the middle of
January, 2003, Bhutanese Ambassador Dago Tshering paid a visit to Nepal. He met
with the Nepali Foreign Ministry officials and told the media that Bhutan was
interested to hold the Twelfth round of Nepal Bhutan JMinisterial
Joint Committee (MJC) meeting. Nepalese Foreign
Minister Mr. Narendra Bikram Shah left to
Bhutan on January 25, 2003. After his return on January 26, 2003, he issued a
statement saying that the joint verification teams will soon begin
categorization of refugees in Khudunabari. He also said that the Twelfth round
of MJC meet will be held soon.
Accordingly, the Twelfth round
of Nepal Bhutan Ministerial Joint Committee
( MJC) meeting was held in Kathmandu for one day on
February 06, 2003. Lyonpo Jigmi
Y. Thinley, Foreign Minister of Bhutan led the Bhutanese delegation and Mr.
Narendra Bikram Shah, Nepalese Foreign Minister headed the Nepalese delegation
Reportedly, Nepal and Bhutan
agreed to undertake the catagorisation process of the already verified Bhutanese
refugees in Thimphu from February 24. The Twelfth MJC meet also agreed to hold
the next MJC meeting in Thimphu from 24 March, 2003
to prepare a roadmap
to find an early and lasting solution to the decade-long Bhutanese refugee
crisis. However, the meeting failed to agree on a time frame for the
verification and repatriation of refugees. Nepalese Foreign Minister also
admitted that friendly and donor countries had pressured them to resolve the
problem as quickly as possible
to a report of Kathmandu Post, an English daily of February 07, 2003, Nepal
also agreed to "consider" the cases of those who do not want to return. At a
press briefing after three sessions of the bilateral talks , both the Foreign
Ministers said that verification of other camps would begin only after
repatriation of Khudunabari was completed. Both ministers refused to reveal as
to by when the repatriation of the verified Bhutanese would take place. The
‘categorization’ has remained a stumbling block on the progress of bilateral
talk.. Much depends on the results of the Khudunabari camp, which is being
taken as a test case.
As of date, twelfth rounds of
Nepal Bhutan Ministerial Joint Committee
(MJC) meeting have been held since
1993. These talks are held as per the need and pleasure of Bhutan. All these
talks have failed to arrive even at a common agreement let alone the resolution
of Bhutanese refugee issue. Bhutan hurriedly called the one day 12th
round of MJC meeting on February 06, 2003, just ahead of Bhutan’s donors’ meeting in
Geneva. As expected the MJC meeting ended inconclusively, as Bhutan has never shown
sincerity to take back its citizens. By holding the 12th Talk,
Bhutan wanted to create impression on the donors and international community
that it is engaged in finding solution to the issue of Bhutanese refugees.
However, it became clearly evident from the recently concluded twelfth round of
MJC meeting that refugees issue cannot be resolved through bilateral efforts of
Nepal and Bhutan. Practically, the refugee issue today stands where it
began in 1993, the first MJC meeting. Bhutan has been making
and breaking promises to take back its citizens from the camps for last one
decade. A decade of lies of Bhutan has compelled the refugees to distrust
Bhutan. It has lost complete credibility.
Thirteenth MJC Meeting: The 13th Nepal Bhutan
Ministerial Joint Committee ( MJC) Meeting on the
repatriation of more than 100,000 Bhutanese refugees living in the refugee
camps in southeast Nepal was held on March 24-26, 2003 in Thimphu. The Bhutanese Foreign
Minister Lyonpo Jigme Thinley led Bhutanese delegation while his Nepalese
counterpart Mr. Narendra Bikram Shah led the Nepalese delegation.
Prior to that
Nepal-Bhutan joint verification team (JVT) started the categorization of
verified 12,095 refugees in Khudunabari camp in Thimphu on February 24, 2003. The 12th MJC held in Kathmandu from
February 5 -7, 2003, directed the JVT to start work on the categorization of
verified refugees from Khudanabari camp. The 13th meeting of MJC reviewed the
progress made by the Nepal-Bhutan joint verification team (JVT). A joint press
release said that the MJC had agreed on the modalities for the implementation of
the outcome of the joint verification and categorization exercise of Khudunabari
camp. The 13th MJC agreed to introduce a voluntary repatriation
form for the refugees who want to go back to their homeland. Reportedly, the
verified refugees will be asked to fill up the voluntary repatriation form and
those wiling to fill such forms will be eligible to go back to Bhutan. It was
also disclosed that the voluntary repatriation form based on international
norms, will be distributed to the refugees in three of the four categories,
viz; Bhutanese forced to leave, Bhutanese who emigrated willingly and Bhutanese
with criminal records. Those falling in the fourth category, the non-Bhutanese,
won’t get any such repatriation forms. The two countries also agreed to hold the
14th MJC meeting in Kathmandu from May 11, 2003. The 14th MJC meeting will
review and approve the report of the on-going Joint Verification Team (JVT) on
the categorization of verified refugees of the Khudunabari camp. It may also
decide on the repatriation process. The 14th ministerial meeting will also
decide on the verification on the remaining six camps. During the 13th MJC
meeting the two sides examined and scrutinized documents of the refugees
supporting their claim of Bhutanese citizenship according to Nepalese Foreign
However, the 13th MJC failed to harmonize the
position of two governments on four categories of refugees :
bonafide Bhutanese who have been evicted; Bhutanese
who emigrated; non Bhutanese; and Bhutanese who have committed criminal acts.
The harmonization of positions of two governments on four categories of
refugees, has so far remained the stumbling block on the resolution of Bhutanese
Fourteenth MJC Meeting: Please click on the
link to read about the fourteenth ( 14th) MJC meeting held in Kathmandu on May
While Nepal was expecting an invitation from Bhutan on the
ninth round of MJCT, Bhutan proposed the next talk to be the
Foreign Secretary Level Talk (FSLT). Thus, the third FSLT
was held in Thimphu on February 14-16, 2000 between the Nepalese
Foreign Secretary MP Sharma and his Bhutanese counterpart
Ugen Tshering. Earlier on Bhutan's insistence two FSLTs were
held in Thimphu on February 27, 1997 and July 11-14, 1997.
The Nepalese Joint Secretary and the Foreign Secretary Kumar
Gyawali took part in them. Bhutan's insistence on FSLT is
seen as its desire to avoid a decision making committee like
MJCT to prolong the repatriation of refugees. There is practically
no justification in downgrading the level of the talk from
the ministerial to the official (bureaucratic) level, except
delaying. It also gives wrong signals to the refugees as well
as the international communities, who stand by Nepal's sincere
desire to solve the refugee crisis.
FSLT: The Nepal-Bhutan Foreign Secretary Level (FSL) meeting
was held in Kathmandu on 6-7 November, 2001. The Nepalese
delegation was led by Foreign Secretary Narayan Shumsher Thapa
and the Bhutanese side by Bhutan's Foreign Secretary Ugyen
Tshering. The secretary level meeting was a follow up on the
11th Nepal-Bhutan ministerial level meeting held in Thimpu,
which had agreed on matters concerning verification of refugees
and better coordination and cooperation in the task ahead.
This was the fourth FSL meeting. In the FSL meeting, both
sides were supposed to put across their views on refugee categorization
and building an environment congenial to the dignified repatriation
of about 100,000 Bhutanese refugees sheltering in various
camps in Nepal for the past 10 years. The categorization of
refugees has been a contentious issue between the two countries
right from the first Ministerial level talk in 1993.
The foreign secretary-level
Nepal-Bhutan dialogue on Bhutanese refugees came to a deadlock
once again with both sides sticking to their respective stance
on the categorization of the refugees. While Nepal had pushed
for two categories, Bhutanese and non-Bhutanese, Bhutanese
delegation insisted on keeping the other two categories, "Bhutanese
who emigrated willingly" and "Bhutanese with criminal
records." Nepalese Foreign Secretary Thapa said that
the differences between the two countries remain on the harmonisation,
which he termed as the focus of the two-day talks. "There
are certain differences that we could not reconcile. So we
have suggested that the matter be taken up at the next ministerial
round," said Thapa. Talking about the sharp differences
on the two countries positions on the categorisation of the
Bhutanese refugees, Thapa quipped, "There are four categories
and there will be four positions."
Nepal’s stand: Both
Nepal’s and Bhutan’s stands are diametrically opposed to each
other. Nepal sincerely wants all Bhutanese refugees to go
back to their homes. It wants speedy constitution of verification
for repatriation of refugees. It does not want non-Bhutanese
refugees, if found any in the camps, during the verification,
to impose on Bhutan
On the other hand, Bhutan is not sincere. It does not want
to take back its citizen refugees for fear of inviting early
democracy. It does not accept more than 3000 refugees as Bhutanese.
It has been avoiding to constitute verification mechanism.
For once the mechanism is constituted, it would be compelled
to take back all its citizens from the camps. It is still
transferring population from other parts in the lands of refugees
in southern Bhutan. It wants all refugees assimilated outside
Bhutan. However, the international community are now fully
aware of Bhutanese lies. They know the fact that "all
refugees are Bhutanese", and that "Bhutan’s refusal
to take them back is just to stall the import of democracy"
Bhutan gets its way, then more than half of the refugees will
be disqualified to go home. Bhutanese children of below five
years age, who got evicted along with their parents (those
below 20 years of age now) before 1995, will not find their
names recorded in the census record of Bhutan, and hence automatically
disqualified, if refugees are individually verified. The number
of this age group refugee is quite high. Over 17,000 children
born in the camps will also be disqualified. Refugees will
get justice, if only they are identified through their family
click on International Concern