.- Two Bhutanese refugees resettled in the United States in 2008 through the U.S. bishops’ refugee resettlement program will speak at the World Refugee Day event on June 18. They show the problem of “statelessness” that thousands of Bhutanese, mainly ethnic Nepalis, face after being forced to leave their own country. Khagendra Baral, who was born and raised in Bhutan, recalled how he came to leave his home country.
“I still have fresh memories of my beautiful country and peaceful environment growing up. Then one day, I was forcefully evicted from my homeland with my family and left to become a refugee,” he explained.
In 1991, when he was 17 years old, Khagendra and his family left Bhutan in the middle of the night for India. His father, a Ltshompa leader who advocated for equal rights in Bhutan, was imprisoned. The Indian government did not allow the family to stay and they settled in the Beldangi Refugee Camp in Jhapa, Nepal.
“I spent 17 years in the refugee camp, where there is a scarcity of every basic need, even the right to identity,” Khagendra remarked, according to a USCCB press release.
Though many Bhutanese refugees desire to return home, the Bhutanese government has not permitted any to return to the country. In Nepal, the government denies refugees the freedom of movement and the right to work and earn a living, making refugees’ integration there impossible.
Only a few refugees have been able to obtain Nepalese citizenship through marriage or descent. This reportedly made resettlement in a third country the only enduring solution.
“We were in need of a solution, of a second home to build our life. Luckily, our request and prayers were answered by the U.S. government,” Khagendra said.
He and his wife, who also lived at the refugee camp, were part of the initial group of Bhutanese refugees resettled by Catholic Charities, Phoenix in March 2008.
In the initial group of refugees, the Migration and Refugees Services program of the USCCB brought over those who had higher education levels in hopes they would be hired for employment.
Both of the Barals, who have college degrees, were hired by local refugee resettlement agencies as case workers.
Their message at the World Refugee Day celebration will express gratitude “for all your generosity, for giving us hope, support and encouragement to rebuild our life.”
“With your support and blessings we are doing good,” they added.
“Khagendra and Ganga are the perfect example of how successful refugees can be with community support and a chance for resettlement,” Joanne Morales, director of Refugee Programs for Catholic Charities in Phoenix, said in a statement.
“Not only are they economically independent through employment, but they are also giving back. The Phoenix community is truly a better community for having hosted this special family.”
The USCCB is the largest voluntary refugee resettlement agency in the U.S.
Khagendra and Ganga Baral, husband and wife, will speak at the “Real People, Real Needs” event hosted by the U.N. Commissioner for Refugees and the National Geographic Museum, a press release from the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) reports.