Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2016, 06:57 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Bhutan

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 20 June 2001
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees World Refugee Survey 2001 - Bhutan , 20 June 2001, available at: [accessed 23 October 2016]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

An estimated 144,000 persons from Bhutan were living as refugees in neighboring countries in 2000, including 129,000 in Nepal and more than 15,000 in India.

All but a few hundred of the refugees were Lhotsampa, Bhutanese Hindus of Nepalese origin who lived in the southern plains of Bhutan. Most fled to Nepal and India between late 1990 and 1992 to escape what refugee leaders termed "ethnic cleansing" by the Bhutanese authorities. Bhutan, an isolated Himalayan kingdom, is ruled by Buddhist Drupkas who have historically excluded the Lhotsampa from the country's political and economic mainstream.

The Citizenship Act of 1985 deprived the Lhotsampas of citizenship and resulted in protests in the early 1990s. The authorities claimed they were illegal immigrants. They inflicted abuses against many Lhotsampas – including detention, torture, murder, and confiscation of property and citizenship documents – and forced many into exile.

In 1997, the Bhutanese national assembly decreed that "Nepalese nationals" could no longer be employed in southern Bhutan and permitted Buddhist settlers to resettle on lands that the refugees left behind.

Since 1993, Bhutan and Nepal have been at an impasse over the repatriation of the refugees. However, in December 2000, the two countries agreed on a Joint Verification Team to identify potential candidates for repatriation.

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