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Tuesday, 6 November, 2001, 17:23 GMT
Nepal and Bhutan discuss refugees
Talks will be aimed at speeding up the verification of refugees
About 100,000 refugees have been living in camps
By Sushil Sharma in Kathmandu

A two-day meeting aimed at resolving the problem of Bhutan refugees in Nepal has got under way in the Nepalese capital, Kathmandu.

The talks will focus on verifying the true nationality of about 100,000 ethnic Nepalese refugees, who say they are Bhutanese, with a view to repatriating them.

The refugees, who have been living in camps in eastern Nepal for more than a decade, say they fled ethnic and political repression in Bhutan.

Nepal says all the refugees have valid documents showing they are Bhutanese and have the right to return home.

But Bhutan is prepared to take back only genuine Bhutanese refugees which it says number no more than a few thousand.

Bridging the gap

The two sides are led by Nepal's Foreign Secretary Narayan Shumsher Thapa, and his Bhutanese counterpart, Ugyen Tshering.

Ethnic Bhutanese refugees in Nepal
Verification of the refugees' nationality could take years

The last round of talks was held in August in the Bhutanese capital Thimphu.

It still remains unclear how the two sides will bridge their differences.

Bhutan says many of the refugees left the country voluntarily while some had committed economic offences, thus forfeiting their right to Bhutanese citizenship.

After several rounds of ministerial talks over the past ten years, the two countries began joint verification of the refugees' documents earlier this year.

But only 10,000 have been dealt with so far and analysts say a major breakthrough is unlikely in the current meeting.

Refugee organisations have demanded that the process be speeded up.

See also:

20 Aug 01 | South Asia
Nepal and Bhutan hold refugee talks
27 Dec 00 | South Asia
Bhutan refugee settlement reached
01 Dec 00 | South Asia
US appeal over Bhutan refugees
22 Nov 00 | South Asia
Bhutanese despair in exile
25 May 00 | South Asia
Bhutan refugee talks deadlocked
04 May 00 | South Asia
UN hopeful on Bhutan refugees
24 Apr 00 | South Asia
Bhutan crticised over Nepalese refugees
10 Jan 00 | South Asia
Return of Bhutanese refugees demanded
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