Bhutan submits its first report under the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Tek Nath Rizal is granted an amnesty by the King of Bhutan and released from prison
Under increasing pressure from the international community to find a solution, Bhutan and Nepal agree to commence a pilot screening of refugees in one of the camps.
The 12, 173 inhabitants of Khudunabari camp (about one eighth of the total population in the refugee camps) are screened by the joint Bhutanese / Nepalese verification team. No monitoring by UNHCR or any independent third party allowed.
After 10 years in exile, the refugees face increasing extreme frustration, indicated by theri deteriorating mental health status.
The results of the verification process in Khudunabari are announced: 75% of those screened are found eligible for return to Bhutan. On December 22nd the Bhutanese leader of the verification team spells out what is considered by most to be unfair conditions of return to the assembled refugees.
Refugees express their frustration and anger. In a scuffle, Bhutanese members of the verification team are injured. They return to Bhutan and the process leading to repatriation is halted.
The government of Nepal conducts an investigation into the December 22nd incident and invites the Bhutanese to resume bilateral talks. No formal talks take place and no progress is made.
At a press conference in New Delhi in January, King Jigme Singyw Wangchuk is reported as saying that the people in the refugee camps are not Bhutanese citizens, and could have been living in India or Nepal previously.
In February, the government of Nepal declares a state of emergency. No progress is made on resolving the refugee issue.
USA makes an offer to take up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees. Other countries, including Canada and Australia, also indicate openness to receiving some of the refugees.
King Jigme Singye Wangchuk abdicates in favour of his son, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchok.
The resettlement process begins. By the end of September, 5,300 refugees had been settled: the majority in the US, and smaller numbers in Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Norway. The process is being managed by the International Organisation for Migrations (IOM).
Of the total Bhutanese refugee camp population, over 50,000 have expressed interest in resettlement. Others strongly oppose third country resettlement, seeing it as possibly eroding their right to return to their country.
Thousands ofBhutanese people of Nepalese origin (Lhotshampas) were denied the right to vote in Bhutan’s first “democratic” election held in early 2008. During the election campaign, candidates were barred from speaking about matters of citizenship and security, issues which are crucial to Lhotshampas living in Bhutan and to refugees seeking to return to Bhutan.
Bhutan’s Prime Minister, Lyonchhen Jigmi Thinley, met with his Nepalese counterpart, Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal, in September 2008, and reportedly assured him that he would take initiatives towards finding a solution to the refugee problem.
With the resettlement process having been underway since 2008 significant numbers of the registered Bhutanese refugees living in the Nepalesecamps have now moved, primarily to the USA and in smaller numbers to Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Denmark.
The latest update circulated by UNHCR and International Organization for Migration (IOM) on December 9 2009 shows that 25,000th Bhutanese refugee left the camps in Nepal to start a new life in the United States. In total, 22,060 refugees have been resettled in the US, 1006 in Australia, 892 in Canada, 316 in Norway, 305 in Denmark, 299 in New Zealand and 122 in the Netherlands.
86,739 Bhutanese refugees remain in seven camps in eastern Nepal. In total, more than 80,728 refugees have already expressed their interest in resettlement.
The resettling Bhutanese refugees will continue to have refugee status until they choose to apply for and are granted the citizenship in the countries in which they have resettled.
The resettlement offer is open only to the registered Bhutanese refugees in Nepal and there are an estimated 35,000 refugees living outside the camps in Nepal and India.