Citizenship and Immigration Canada
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Resettling Bhutanese Refugees –
Update on Canada’s Commitment

What is Canada doing to help Bhutanese refugees?

Photo of refugee camp
Bhutanese refugee camp
Photo courtesy UNHCR

About 108,000 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 seven countries taking steps to address this long-standing situation by agreeing to resettle 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.

Canada’s resettlement program

Canada operates a global resettlement program and in 2007 alone, it resettled refugees of about 70 different nationalities.

There are an estimated 11.4 million refugees in the world today. Countries with resettlement programs agree to resettle about 100,000 refugees from abroad each year. Of that number, Canada annually resettles 10,000 to 12,000, or one out of every 10 refugees resettled globally, through its government-assisted and privately sponsored refugee programs.

How are the resettlement plans going?

Photo of Bhutanese refugees waiting for their interviews
Bhutanese refugees waiting for their interviews

In September 2008, a team of Canadian officials, including two representatives from the Province of Quebec, went to Damak, Nepal, to conduct the first selection interviews with Bhutanese refugees seeking resettlement. Each day, refugees were brought from the camps by bus to Damak. Throughout this process, the Canadian team 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 resettlement to 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 will include

  • 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.

More than 1,000 people were interviewed in less than four days. Over the next several months, this group will undergo medical, security and criminality checks, and those who meet all admissibility requirements will then be eligible for resettlement to Canada.

Canada handed out two information bulletins in the camps explaining 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.

By the end of 2008, 24 Bhutanese refugees will call Saint-Jérôme, Quebec, home. The next group of refugees should follow in the spring of 2009.

Canada’s next refugee selection mission to Nepal is scheduled for the fall of 2009.

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.

You may also be able to volunteer through the Host program.

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