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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Refugees in Eastern Nepal to be resettled in the United States

November 9, 2007

November 07
Kuensel

*7 November, 2007 - *The United States government, the government of
Nepal, UNHCR, and other agencies have formally begun the process of
resettling refugees from the seven camps in eastern Nepal, with the
first refugees expected to leave for the U.S. in January, 2008.


*Ms Sauerbrey and the U.S. delegation with Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji and
Foreign Secretary Yeshey Dorji*

In a press conference with Bhutanese newspaper, radio and television
reporters yesterday in Thimphu, the U.S. government’s Assistant
Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration, Ms Ellen R
Sauerbrey, said that she had announced a year ago that the U.S. was
interested in resettling 60,000 of the refugees over five years, but
there was no limit and no quota to the U.S. offer.

“…there is no cap if more than 60,000 people are interested in being
resettled and are referred to our programme by UNHCR,” she said. “We
will take those who come forward and qualify. Most will qualify unless
someone has a record of violence against citizens, major threats and
intimidations involving violence in the camps. We are not cherry
picking. We do not take these people on the basis that they are highly
skilled or the best educated or the healthiest or the youngest, we will
take them across the board and on their own interest to come to the U.S.”

Mrs Sauerbrey, who visited Kathmandu and the refugee camps before coming
to Bhutan, said that the process was formally launched after Nepalese
officials went to the camps with her delegation and announced publicly
the Nepalese government’s support of the resettlement programmes.

She said that UNHCR, in the meantime, had already received, informally,
applications from 3,000 people who desired to be resettled. “We have an
overseas processing entity set up to do the resettlement work,” she
explained. “In this case it is the international organization of
migration. They have built a very significant complex where the
interviews, medical examinations, and cultural orientation are done. It
is functioning now and the first interviews are going on.”

“Our goal this year is to interview about 15,000 and, in the next few
years, we are expecting 20,000 to 25,000 per year, based on the refugees
having an interest themselves,” she added. “It is purely voluntary.”

The Assistant Secretary of State said that, for the U.S. government,
which was very focused on helping to resolve protracted refugee
situations, it was a humanitarian issue. “I have been in many refugee
camps around the world and they are certainly not nice places to live no
matter how nicely they are run,” she said. “We also know that refugees
who see no hope or future are easily radicalized and we think this is
really a critical time and this issue of this population needs to be
resolved quickly before it becomes more fermenting in the region.”

Mrs Sauerbrey was accompanied on her four-day visit to Bhutan by the
Overseas Program Officer of the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and
Migration, Ms Lisa L Meyer, a State Department specialist on South Asia,
Mr Jonathan Daniell, and the Political Officer at the U.S. embassy in
India, Ms Reva Gupta.

The delegation held discussions with His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo,
the Prime Minister, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, the Chief Justice, Lyonpo
Sonam Tobgye, the Chief Election Commissioner, Dasho Kinzang Dorji, the
leaders of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa and the People’s Democratic Party,
former ministers Jigmi Thinley and Sangay Ngedup, and the Resident
Coordinator for the UN System, Mr Nicholas Rosellini.

Mrs Sauerbrey said that resettlement could resolve a major part of the
problem but there were people in the camps who were genuinely Bhutanese
citizens and would very much like to come home. “The US and many other
international communities do believe that Bhutan has a moral obligation
with people who are genuinely Bhutanese citizens, to let them come
home,” she said.

She told the Bhutanese media that it had been a good opportunity to
discuss with His Majesty and government officials on how the process
could move forward. “His Majesty was very generous to give his time and
it was a very good opportunity to talk through the difficulties of the
people in the camps and how Bhutan can move forward when there is a
government in place after the elections and when Nepal has a government
in place to get this process back on track.”

Mrs Sauerbrey said that the visit to Bhutan had also been a good
opportunity to get a better understanding of the movement to develop
democratic institutions in Bhutan. “As a former elected person in my own
country, I was very interested in how the whole political process is
developing, how campaigns would be structured, and the perception of the
people,” she said. “I have to say that I am extremely impressed with His
Majesty. This is an historic event when a Monarch, a person who hold
such powers, is willing to give it up and understands that there can be
good Kings and bad Kings and the people may be happy with this King and
there could be a future King who is a tyrant and will oppress people.”

The U.S. was a country built on strong democratic traditions and
cherished the right of the people to self-determination, she said. “So
it is a huge step that has been taken. We are very excited and
supportive to see democracy blooming. I think Bhutan has the potential
of being a model in this region where there is so much turmoil. In terms
of how the process is shaping up, we certainly recognize that there are
going to be a lot of pains that people have to be educated about what
democracy is, political party has to be formed, they have to understand
their role, have to develop a reason for existence.”

Mrs Sauerbrey told the media that His Majesty the fourth Druk Gyalpo was
most gracious in thanking the United States for taking this major step
in trying to solve an the issue that had been a stalemate for a long
period of time. She said that His Majesty was interested in seeing more
development and opportunities for people in the rural areas in Bhutan
but was absolutely determined that he was not going to be involved in
the political process.

Bhutan’s Caretaker Prime Minister, Lyonpo Kinzang Dorji, told Kuensel
that the government commended the humanitarian efforts of the U.S.
government to solve a problem that was very complex with serious
implications for the South Asian region.

“The government of Bhutan is fully committed to the agreement we have
already signed with the government of Nepal,” he said. “Our new
government will be in place early next year and I sincerely hope that
the two governments will be able to move ahead with the bilateral
process on this protracted issue. We welcome the initiative taken by the
U.S. government and it is our collective responsibility to ensure a
comprehensive and permanent solution to the problem.”

The U.S. delegation will visit India from tomorrow to talk about India’s
role in this effort to resolve the problem. The officials also discussed
the Tibetan refugee problem in Nepal and India where the officials will
visit Dharamsala.

Ms Ellen R Sauerbrey has been the Assistant Secretary of State for
Population, Refugees, and Migration since January, 2006. She has served
as U.S. Representative to the United Nations Commission on the Status of
Women and has spoken at numerous international women’s conferences. She
represented the U.S. at the 2003 World Family Policy Forum in Provo,
Utah, the International Congress on the Family in Mexico City and World
Family Congress III. She also held conferences on family issues in
Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador and Costa Rica, and led the U.S.
delegation to the 2004 Ninth Annual Conference of Women in Latin America.

President Bush appointed Ms Sauerbrey to represent the United States at
the March–April 2001 session of the UN Commission on Human Rights and to
the U.S. delegations to the 2002 and 2003 substantive sessions of the
Economic and Social Council and the UN General Assembly. During the 2003
session of the General Assembly, she led the negotiations that
culminated in the successful adoption of the U.S.-proposed resolution on
Women and Political Participation, with 110 co-sponsors.

Ms Sauerbrey has served as the Minority Leader of the Maryland House of
Delegates and was the 1994 and 1998 Republican nominee for Governor of
Maryland. A former teacher, she was elected to represent her northern
Maryland district in the Maryland Legislature from 1978-1994, and served
as Minority Leader from 1986-1994. An expert in economic, budget, and
fiscal issues, she served on the Economic Matters, Ways and Means, and
Appropriations Committees, among others.

*By UGyen Penjore and Kinley Dorji*

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