What is Canada doing to help Bhutanese refugees?
Bhutanese refugee camp
Photo courtesy UNHCR
Bhutanese refugees of ethnic Nepalese descent have been living in seven camps in eastern Nepal since the early 1990s. Canada is part of a group of eight countries which includes Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the United States and the United Kingdom which are taking steps to address this long-standing situation by resettling some of these refugees.
In May 2007, the Government of Canada announced that it would resettle up to 5,000 Bhutanese refugees over the next three to five years.
In June 2012, the Government announced that it would resettle up to 500 more refugees with family connections in Canada.
Plans to resettle up to 1,000 more Bhutanese refugees were announced in March 2013.
In total, Canada will resettle up to 6,500 Bhutanese refugees who have been living for nearly two decades in U.N. run camps.
Canada’s resettlement program
The Government of Canada is committed to strengthening Canada’s role as a global leader in refugee protection by enhancing our resettlement programs.
Canada operates a global resettlement program and resettles refugees from about 70 different nationalities.
As part of improvements to Canada’s refugee system, the government has been increasing the total number of refugees it resettles each year by 20%. After three years of increases, and as of 2013, Canada will aim to resettle up to 14,500 refugees and other individuals in vulnerable circumstances.
How are the resettlement plans going?
Bhutanese refugees waiting for their interviews
When this resettlement movement first started in 2007, there were about 108,000 Bhutanese refugees in the camps.
The eight countries participating in this project have together committed to resettling at least 70,000 persons over a period of years and already, more than 69,000 people have left Nepal for their new lives in these countries. Resettlement efforts are ongoing. Thanks to the efforts of these countries, the Government of Nepal, with the support of United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), has been able to reduce the number of refugee camps from seven to two.
The additional group of 500 refugees with family connections only in Canada will be selected in fall 2012 with the majority of arrivals expected in 2013. More than 5,000 Bhutanese have already arrived in Canada.
Refugees have settled into more than 21 communities across Canada, including Charlottetown, Fredericton, St. John’s, Saint-Jérôme, Quebec City, Laval, Ottawa, Toronto, London, Windsor, Hamilton, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Lethbridge and Vancouver, to name just a few.
Information from previous trips to Damak
In September 2008, a team of Canadian officials went to Damak, Nepal, to conduct the first selection interviews with Bhutanese refugees seeking resettlement. Throughout this process, the Canadian team has worked closely with its international partners at the International Organization for Migration and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
The Bhutanese refugees are very enthusiastic and optimistic about resettling in Canada. This is a very diverse group of men, women and children of all ages. They speak a variety of languages, and the adults have a range of employment skills. The first refugees to be resettled included the following:
- women at risk
- survivors of violence and torture
- refugees with medical needs such as speech and hearing impairments
While only a handful of people already have family living in Canada, many speak English and it is not uncommon for the young adults to have secondary, and even post-secondary education.
In all, selection missions occurred in October 2009, October 2010, April 2011, October 2011 and October 2012. Future trips to the camps are planned for later in 2013 and April 2014.
Following the interviews, refugees who are selected undergo medical, security and criminality checks, and those who meet all admissibility requirements will then be eligible for resettlement to Canada. Canada has also handed out information bulletins following each visit to the camps to explain the resettlement process.
- Bulletin #1 was distributed in May 2008 to provide general information about life in Canada and the resettlement process.
- Bulletin #2 was given to Bhutanese refugees after their interview to explain the next steps and to provide more information about life in Canada.
- Bulletin #3 was handed out in the refugee camps in July 2010 to Bhutanese refugees. The goal was to provide ongoing information about the Canadian resettlement process.
- Bulletin #4 was given to Bhutanese refugees after their interview to explain that this is Canada’s final trip into Nepal to select refugees for resettlement to Canada.
- Bulletin #5 was given to Bhutanese refugees after their interview to explain that Canada has decided to resettle up to 500 more Bhutanese refugees whose only family connections are in Canada.
How you can help the Bhutanese
Interested parties can sponsor and help integrate Bhutanese refugees into our communities through the Private Sponsorship of Refugees Program.
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