Tens of thousands of Bhutanese refugees have languished in seven overcrowded camps for 16 years, relying on international aid for food and shelter, and slowly losing hope of ever returning to their homeland Bhutan. During the 1980s, the Dzongkha-speaking Buddhists who rule Bhutan began to fear the growing influence of the Nepali-speaking Hindus in the south. The government tightened citizenship laws and used these -- combined with arrests, torture and threats -- to force ethnic-Nepali Bhutanese citizens out of the country. Neighboring India wanted nothing to do with the refugees and transported them to Nepal, where they have remained ever since. There are now 106,000 people living in seven camps -- roughly a sixth of the current population of Bhutan.Fifteen rounds of negotiations between the governments of Bhutan and Nepal have come to nothing and the despair of prolonged statelessness has begun to show itself in ugly forms. Domestic violence is on the rise and frustrated young men are increasingly keen on beginning an armed Maoist struggle in Bhutan. Today, many refugees are pinning hopes on an offer from the United States to resettle 60,000 people. But the offer has also caused a schism amongst the refugees. While many see this as the only viable option to move on with their lives, a minority insist that repatriation should be the only option.There have been a number of violent incidents recently and people for resettlement have been attacked. We interviewed a number of people who have left the camp fearing for their lives because they wish to have resettlement on the table as an option.It's a forgotten crisis and for the 100,000 refugees there is little hope for the future. We hope to have a feature on the issue published in November and I'll post the link here.
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