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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 May 2007, 06:11 GMT 07:11 UK
Bhutan refugees in border clash
By Subir Bhaumik
BBC News, Calcutta

Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal try to enter the Indian state of West Bengal on May 29 2007
Bhutan says the refugees in Nepal are illegal immigrants
Thousands of Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal have tried to cross into the Indian state of West Bengal for a second successive day.

The refugees are demanding India allow them to go back to Bhutan via West Bengal's border with Nepal.

One refugee was killed and more than 20 injured when Indian police fired on them when they tried to enter India.

Nepal is home to about 107,000 ethnic Nepalese expelled from Bhutan, which says they are illegal immigrants.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres recently urged the Bhutanese government to repatriate them.

Divided

Since Tuesday, thousands of refugees have been trying to cross the Mechi river that marks the border of West Bengal state with Nepal.

Indian police say at least six of their men were injured when the refugees pelted them with stones on Tuesday.

Map

Violence has also continued for a third day in some refugee camps in Beldangi in eastern Nepal, where large numbers of Bhutanese refugees oppose UN plans to settle them in Western countries.

They beat up some of their own leaders who support third-country settlement in the US, leading to intervention by the Nepal police.

Two refugees were killed in Beldangi when police fired shots over the weekend.

After nearly two decades in the camps of Nepal, the Bhutanese refugees are divided.

Some accept a future in the West; others are determined to go back and enrol as voters in Bhutan ahead of next year's parliamentary elections in the Himalayan kingdom.

But India says it is determined to stop them in view of Delhi's cordial relations with Bhutan.

It is one of Asia's most protracted refugee problems.

Forgotten by most of the world, the refugees are dependent on UN food rations and officially forbidden to work in Nepal.




SEE ALSO
Bhutan urged to accept refugees
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Breakthrough for Bhutan refugees?
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Despair of Nepal's unwanted exiles
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Bhutan and Nepal in refugee deal
23 Oct 03 |  South Asia
UN urged to resolve refugee crisis
10 Jul 03 |  South Asia
Bhutan refugees on hunger strike
18 Feb 03 |  South Asia
Bhutan refugee screening slammed
19 Jun 03 |  South Asia

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