CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION
The Tibetans, around 20,0001 in number, and the Bhutanese, around 38,100 as of April 26, 2013, are the two largest refugee groups sheltering in Nepal since 1950s and 1990s respectively (UNHCR Nepal 2012, TJC 2002, p. 2; UNHCR Nepal 2013). There were 108,000 Bhutanese refugees living in Nepal till 2006, but the number went down to 38,100 after around 80,000 were resettled in the US and other Western countries in the period between October 2007 and April 2013 (UNHCR Nepal 2013). Though Nepal is yet to ratify the 1951 Refugee Convention and its 1967 Optional Protocol, it has agreed to certain informal as well as formal mechanisms to handle these two protracted refugees situations. Both the refugee groups are currently under UNHCR protection.2 As a poor country sandwiched between two of the world's powerful and competing States, China and India, Nepal has been struggling to balance the conflicting interests of these two neighbouring States, and the world powers, including the US while dealing with the refugees. Given the geo-strategically sensitive location of Nepal and its lack of any domestic framework to deal with refugee issues, the refugees have long been subject to ad-hoc, un-principled and differential treatment from the host country and the international community, whose behaviour is guided by their own geo-strategic and political interests.
What inspired this research was the post-2006 developments in the Bhutanese refugee camps, where a durable solution seems to have been found – mass resettlement to the third countries. Introduced formally in 2007, this program suddenly changed the whole dynamics in the Bhutanese refugee camps, opening up both opportunities and challenges for the refugees.
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