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Research Papers on Bhutanese Refugees

Bhutan is, like Nepal, a mountain kingdom in the Himalayas, bordered on the north by China and on the south by India. During the 1990s, conflict broke out between ethnic Nepalese and ethnic Bhutanese. In 1988, the Bhutan government had conducted its first census, discovering a significant Lhotsampa (“southerners”) population. The Lhotsampa include members of the following groups:

  • Kirat
  • Tamang
  • Gurung Bhutanese Refugees

Bhutanese Refugees and illegal Immigration

The 1988 census was prompted by mass waves of illegal immigration into Bhutan during the 1980s. These Lhotsampa retained their Nepali cultural identity, which the Bhutan government perceived as a threat. Following the census, Bhutan attempted to force Bhutanese culture in order to force assimilation. Anti-government protests in the early 1990s led to several thousand refugees fleeing Bhutan.

These Bhutanese refugees arrived in Nepal and were forced to setting into camps set up by the United Nations. As many as 100,000 Bhutanese refugees were in the camps by 1996. The governments of Nepal and Bhutan have been unable to come to any agreement as far as repatriation, leaving these Bhutanese refugees in a state of limbo. Beginning in 2008, the UN has made efforts to resettle these refugees in the West, and many of the Lhotshampa have immigrated to the United States, Australia, and Canada. Nepal has never accepted any of these refugees into its own population, carefully restricting the refugees in that nation.

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