In the late 1980s and early 1990s, tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese (Lhotshampas) were expelled from Bhutan, and more than 100,000 ethnic Nepalese refugees from Bhutan lived in camps in southeastern Nepal until 2006. At that point, the United States and other governments agreed to begin a large-scale Bhutanese resettlement program.
Since then, more than 40,000 Bhutanese refugees have been resettled in eight Core Group countries: Australia, Canada, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. Third-country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees is significantly decreasing camp populations. And while the durable solution for most will be third country resettlement, the U.S. Government is advocating for access to basic services for Bhutanese in Nepal who wish to remain in that country, and possible voluntary return to Bhutan for the refugees who wish to return.
The U.S. Government will continue to consider for resettlement in the United States as many Bhutanese refugees as express interest, and to work in coordination with the other Core Group members on resettlement efforts. The U.S. Government will also support UNHCR’s efforts to implement a camp consolidation and community development plan for the refugee camps and their environs, a plan that was approved by the Government of Nepal in December 2010. The United States will also continue to maintain humanitarian assistance for the remaining camp population and to explore options for the voluntary repatriation of Bhutanese who still wish to return to Bhutan.