By Dr. DNS Dhakal January 4, 2018
As of November 30, 2017, Bhutanese refugee population in the camp was 8041. There are only 2819 households with 27 individuals registered outside the camps. Some 111,494 have departed for third-country resettlement and 1500 to 2000 are under the resettlement process.
That leaves only 6000 to 6500 registered refugees in the camps. The Indian media reports some 20,000 Bhutanese refugees are living in India.
Bhutan needs to do soul searching evaluation what it wants to do with the registered refugees in the camps.
The gossip in the international community is that Nepal could absorb the residual population if an adequate financial incentive is given to the refugees through Nepal government. That would absolutely be a wrong recipe.
Our position is that Bhutan takes back the willing refugees from the camps, create a congenial atmosphere for dignified return of the exiled political parties and grant non-resident Bhutanese (NRB) status to the resettled Bhutanese community.
Integrating the returnees and the resettled refugees within the Bhutanese Diaspora would be in Bhutan’s long-term interest. It will earn the goodwill of the resettled community and solve the problem of Bhutanese refugees lock stock and barrel.
In 2006, the visiting US Congressmen Jim Kolbe and Brian Baird had stated during their visit to Thimphu that “there needed to be some show of good faith on the part of the Bhutanese government to return or repatriate even a small number of refugees who are Bhutanese citizen”.
After all the idea of third-country resettlement was a burden sharing mechanism including repatriation to Bhutan.
With the international community taking the bulk majority of the refugee population it is the turn of Bhutan to establish its sincerity towards resolution of the Bhutanese refugee problem.
The unresolved Bhutanese refugee issue could have far reaching consequences to the country though it may not be apparent at this point of time.