Approximately one sixth of the people of Bhutan are refugees not allowed to return to their home country.
In the early 1990s, approximately one hundred thousand Nepali speaking people in Bhutan were forced into exile. According to the U.S. Department of State, about 55,000 Bhutanese refugees are currently living in refugee camps in Nepal, and about 58,000 refugees have settled elsewhere, with most of the Bhutanese refugees in the USA.
The government of Bhutan maintains that these people were expelled because they were not citizens of Bhutan. Bhutan instituted a census in 1985 to determine who was and was not a proper citizen of Bhutan. The main requirement to retain citizenship was to provide land ownership documents dating back to 1958. There was another census in 1988-89, and anyone who could not meet the strict citizenship requirements was declared an illegal immigrant. There are still an unknown number of Nepali speaking people living in the south of Bhutan, but they have limited access to employment and education.
There have been numerous talks between Nepal and Bhutan since the purges in the 1990s, but no significant action. Bhutan continues to maintain that many of the Bhutanese refugees are not actually citizens of Bhutan, and Nepal refuses to accept them despite the common language and ethnicity.
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The United States has agreed to allow 60,000 refugees, while Canada, Norway, Denmark, Netherlands, and Australia have agreed to accept 10,000 each, so there is hope that in the near future these people will at least have a home.
If you are Bhutanese refugee in America, and you have relatives who are refugees that have not resettled yet, there might be a way to get your relatives resettled in the United States. If you are a refugee from Bhutan who has not resettled, there may be a way for you to resettle in the United States. New York Human Rights Committee may be able to help you. Call us at +1 (800) 560-1768 today. We are available 24/7.