UPDATE (BHUTAN/NEPAL/INDIA/UNHCR): Hunger strike is going on; Need your support


Urgent Appeal Case: UP-04-2003
ISSUES: Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,

The Asian Human Rights Commission (AHRC) would like to inform you regarding the recent developments of the Bhutanese Refugees’ indefinite Dharna (means hunger strike) that began on 7 January 2003.

For your attention and support, AHRC is sending you the following latest information from the organizers of this event and other reliable sources.

If you need more details, please see our previous appeal and update at http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2002/389/, http://www.ahrchk.net/ua/mainfile.php/2003/393/.

Thank you for your support.

Urgent Appeals Desk
Asian Human Rights Commission



“Dharna at Khudunabari is going on. Each day about one hundred participants take part during the day and about twenty-five at night. The nights and mornings are extremely cold. Still then the people are very enthusiastic and are in high moral. People from different camps are pouring in to take part in the Dharna. The biggest group being from Timai camp on twelfth. There were eighty-six females and fifteen males. We are likely to have more participants in the next few days. The number of youths is increasing. Some prominent Nepali political leaders like Bir mani Dhakal, former Minister NC and other ex-MPs from Nepali congress had visited at the Dharna to express their solidarity. Four Indian journalists from Siliguri also visited Dharna site on Jan. 13, 2003. Nepali media are giving daily coverage. We hope things will become even better in the days to come. Looking forward for your kind support and solidarity.”

Referring to the Royal Government of Bhutan and His Majesty’s Government, Gurung, the chief coordinator of the movement warned, “if we fail to receive any positive response from the concerned governments, then we are pretty determined to carry on a fast unto death movement.”

Meanwhile, the Information Officer at the Country Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Melita Sunjic has once again repeated her office’s stand that the problem should be sorted out bilaterally. Asked if UNHCR had made any effort to intervene, she maintained that it was their independent decision and the UNHCR has nothing to interfere about.

The refugees have made threefold demand: Immediate declaration of the verification process in Khudunabari camp, continuation of the process in the rest of the six camps in Jhapa and Morang districts and early repatriation and settlement of verified refugees in their homeland.

Kamala Khadka, the camp secretary of the Khudunabari camp submitted a letter to the Nepalese Prime Minister. The letter channeled through the camp supervisor requests the premier to make moves in order to fulfill the three demands of the refugees languishing since over a decade now. Till now, there already have been eleven rounds of talks between the two Himalayan kingdoms but without result. Bhutan refuses to accept them as its bona-fide citizens calling them economic migrants. The refugees on the other hand claim they possess valid official documents dating back even prior to 1950. The Joint verification Team (JVT) had verified 12,090 members of the Khudunabari refugee camp in 2001, the result of which has so far not been declared. There are no signs as to when the 12th round of talks, which is vital for continued verification process and repatriation of verified refugees, will take place between the two governments experts say.

A delegation of the Bhutanese Refugee Repatriation Support Group (BRRSG) in Nepal which recently visited New Delhi to lobby international support for the repatriation of the Bhutanese refugees said that Nepal would have to withdraw from the bilateral process if the long overdue 12th round of talks failed to make headway for the repatriation of the refugees. A BRRSG press statement said the Nepalese delegation represented by former Foreign Minister Shailendra Kumar Upadhyaya, former lawmaker and foreign policy expert Hiranyalal Shrestha and Pramod Kafle asked the European and North American diplomats and Indian intellectuals for their active involvement so that Nepal does not have to resort to extreme steps.

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Document Type : Urgent Appeal Update
Document ID : UP-04-2003
Countries : India, Nepal,
Issues : Refugees, IDPs & Asylum seekers,