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Last Updated: Saturday, 10 September 2005, 12:13 GMT 13:13 UK
UNHCR warning on Bhutan refugees
By Charles Haviland
BBC News, Kathmandu

Refugees in the Beldangi II Extension camp
Refugees report a rising number of suicides
The United Nations refugee agency says rising world oil prices are severely damaging its provision of aid to Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal.

The warning comes as frustration increases in the refugee camps.

There are more than a hundred thousand Bhutanese who have been in seven camps in Nepal since the early 1990s, largely ignored by the world.

The authorities in both Bhutan and India have foiled recent attempts by these refugees to return home.

Right to return

The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which is mandated to protect the refugees, says rising oil prices are having a bad effect on its fuel budget for them.

The agency says cooking and lighting kerosene have always taken up half its budget for these refugees but now it had to request nearly $700,000 more than it planned for this year.

This has been secured but the UNHCR says funding is tight and the problem will loom next year.

All refugees are from Nepalese ethnic groups; most were stripped of their citizenship by Bhutan or expelled after campaigning for democracy.

International human rights groups call the process "one of the largest ethnic expulsions in modern history".

But Bhutan now admits many do have the right to return but after 15 rounds of bilateral talks, it has not taken a single person back.

Paid work forbidden

Refugees in the camps recently told the BBC of their sense of despair and reported a rising number of suicides.
Refugee woman weaving
Frustration is increasing among the refugees

People depend on World Food Programme rations. Some do casual jobs like weaving, but officially, paid work is forbidden both inside and outside the camps.

One of the refugees organisations has appealed to the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, to intervene to solve the problem.

Nepal and Bhutan this week agreed to resume talks on the issue but set no date for them.

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