There were scenes of elation at Schipol Airport as 43 Bhutanese refugees landed in The Netherlands on the night of Tuesday 8th of June. Their arrival was greeted by family and friends from whom many had been separated for several years.
Family and friends had arrived in The Netherlands in 2008 and 2009 as part of the UNHCR resettlement programme. The Netherlands receives 500 resettled refugees each year, of which 100 will be Bhutanese this year. The final group of 51 Bhutanese are expected to arrive in July.
The group ranged from toddlers to an 84 year old grandmother warmly greeted by her grandson, part of the earlier resettlement programme who in his short time in The Netherlands has mastered the Dutch language.
They were welcomed by representatives of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), COA (Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, GHRD and the Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands (BCN), all of whom will be involved in aiding in the transition from the refugee camps to a new life in the Netherlands.
They were greeted by GHRD with flowers and teddy bears for the children. GHRD has been engaged with the Bhutanese refugees since 2003, and will continue to monitor their situation in 2010. GHRD also supports the Bhutanese Community in the Netherlands (BCN) since the end of 2009.
An estimated 100,000 Bhutanese have been living in refugee camps in Nepal since the early 90s. They are not recognized by the Bhutanese Government as citizens, and so have been unable to return to Bhutan. Although repatriation is the ideal solution for this situation, it has so far proved untenable, leaving resettlement in The Netherlands, USA, Canada, Denmark, Norway, New Zealand and Australia as the only viable option for the moment.