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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 26 March, 2003, 10:23 GMT
Nepal and Bhutan discuss refugees
Refugees in a camp in Nepal
Almost 100,000 refugees have been in camps in Nepal for 12 years
Talks between the foreign ministers of Nepal and Bhutan on resolving a long-standing refugee problem have ended with only a commitment for a further meeting in May.

Nepal's Foreign Minister Narendra Bikram Shah returned home on Wednesday after meeting his counterpart, Jigmi Thinley, in Bhutan's capital, Thimpu.

The sides said the talks were fruitful but gave no more details.

This was the thirteenth round of such talks.

They aim to verify the nationality of tens of thousands of refugees at one of seven camps in eastern Nepal and cover the question of possible repatriation.

Verification team

There has been a dispute over the status of the people since the introduction of a controversial nationality act in Bhutan in the 1980s.

The ministers were also believed to have discussed the progress of a Joint Verification Team assigned to assess the status of the refugees.

The two sides set up the team after Bhutan questioned the nationality of almost 100,000 refugees who have been in camps in eastern Nepal for the past 12 years.

The team has already confirmed the nationality of nearly 12,000 refugees at the Khudunabari camp.

Refugees have demanded that the results be made public and that anyone who is confirmed as a Bhutanese national be repatriated immediately.

'Forced evictions'

The two Himalayan kingdoms have been in dispute ever since the first group of Bhutanese people crossed over into Nepal - through Indian territory - in 1989.

Leaders of the refugee groups say the Bhutanese Government forcibly evicted thousands of people of Nepali origin after the introduction of a new citizenship act in the mid-1980s.

The Bhutanese Government denies the allegations and claims that many people in the UNHCR-administered camps in eastern Nepal are not its nationals.

However, it says that any of the refugees who are confirmed to be Bhutanese citizens will be taken back into the country.


SEE ALSO:
Bhutan refugees on hunger strike
18 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Nepal and Bhutan discuss refugees
06 Nov 01 |  South Asia


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