More than 420 Bhutanese refugees living in UN-run camps in eastern Nepal have been resettled in another country as part of a third-country resettlement programme, a media report said Sunday. A total of 422 refugees were sent to the US, New Zealand, Canada and other countries since the programme began earlier this year, Annapurna Post reported.
Nepalese security officials quoted the International Organisation for Migration as saying the process was continuing and another batch of 19 refugees were to leave Nepal for a third-country settlement this week, the newspaper said.
More than 107,000 Bhutanese refugees, mainly of Nepali origin, are housed in seven refugee camps in Jhapa and Mornag district in eastern Nepal.
The refugees began arriving in Nepal in the early 1990s alleging the Bhutanese government of persecution on the basis of their religion, culture and language. Several rounds of high level talks between Nepal and Bhutan failed to resolve the deadlock.
The US has said it could eventually resettle over 60,000 refugees. Some other countries including Norway, New Zealand and Canada have also said they will resettle the refugees but have not made public the numbers they are willing to take in.
Bhutan in the past has insisted that the refugees in the UN run camps in eastern Nepal are not Bhutanese nationals despite most refugees possessing Bhutanese government identification documents.
Officials say they have received applications from over 30,000 refugees so far for the settlement programmes and the number was expected to rise.
The resettlement programme has been opposed to refugee groups who favour repatriation back to Bhutan as the only solution, which has led to rising tension in the refugee camps.
Last year, the Nepalese government clamped a curfew in the refugee camps after tensions escalated between rival refugee groups over the resettlement process.