As part of one of the largest resettlement schemes of the UN, over 20,000 Bhutanese refugees in Nepal have been resettled in other countries.
The 20,000th refugee was eight-year-old Sita Budhathoki, who left Nepal yesterday with her parents and siblings for Des Moines, Iowa, in the United States, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Andrej Mahecic told reporters in Geneva.
The US has taken in the lion's share of Bhutanese refugees, with over 17,000 resettled in the North American nation till date. They have also moved to countries such as Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand and Denmark.
The programme to resettle refugees – who had fled ethnic tensions in Bhutan in the early 1990s – in seven camps in eastern Nepal kicked off in November 2007.
"More than 78,000 refugees have expressed an interest in resettlement so far and a further 5,000 are expected to leave Nepal for third countries by the end of the year," Mahecic said.
UNHCR also provides refugees in Nepalese camps English language classes, along with vocational and skills training, to prepare for their new lives.
"Alongside the international community, UNHCR continues to advocate for the option of voluntary return to Bhutan for those refugees who wish to do so," the spokesperson said, adding that over 90,000 Bhutanese refugees remain in exile in Nepal.