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The Nepalese refugees from Bhutan

France 24 meets ethnic Nepalese who were expelled from Bhutanin the 1990s. Almost 20 years after they were expelled, many are still living in wretched conditions in refugee camps.

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Bhutan, a mountain kingdom straddling the India-China border with a population of 800,000, has the world’s most progress indicator: Gross National Happiness.

The country nevertheless has a darker side. In the 1990s, thousands of Bhutanese of Nepalese origin were expelled from the country. The government declared them illegal immigrants, claiming that their Nepalese origins constituted a threat to national identity.

FRANCE 24 visited the refugee camps in the Sanischar region of eastern Nepal where, twenty years later, more than 100,000 refugees continue to live in miserable conditions.

One refugee recounts how his life changed after he objected to the discriminatory measures of the scheme: "I was arrested during the demonstrations. They imprisoned and tortured us. They threatened us and we have told to leave the country immediately."

These exiles have renounced their Bhutanese nationality, but they are equally unwelcome in Nepal. For the past 20 years, Nepal has been trying to negotiate their repatriation with Bhutan. No agreement has been reached. To break the deadlock, the International Office of Migration last year set up a resettlement programme. All the refugees will go to host countries including Canada, Australia and the United States.

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