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BHUTANESE REFUGEE RESETTLEMENT PROGRAM PRESS BRIEF OPENING STATEMENT  BY REPRESENTATIVES OF THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF STATE, BUREAU FOR POPULATION, REFUGEES AND MIGRATION:

LARRY BARTLETT, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR ASIA AND THE NEAR EAST, AND JAN BELZ, DEPUTY DIRECTOR FOR ADMISSIONS

April 26, 2007

We are pleased to say that the Government of Nepal has agreed to proceed with third country resettlement of the Bhutanese refugees in Nepal.  During the resettlement process, the U.S. Government, along with other donor governments, will continue to advocate for the refugees' right of return to their homeland.

The United States is committed to consider for resettlement as many Bhutanese refugees in Nepal as express interest.  We are not yet ready to begin interviews, but even now it is important to understand that resettlement processing takes time.  It could take six months or more from the time the family has its first U.S. interview before actual travel to the United States.  Once the U.S. resettlement program begins, it will operate for at least five years, depending on how many Bhutanese refugees express interest.

We do not believe resettlement in the United States is the solution for every Bhutanese refugee, and only those who freely choose resettlement in the United States would be considered.

Each case will be individually interviewed by U.S. immigration authorities.  Persons are approved for refugee admission to the U.S. based on their refugee claims and need for resettlement, not on qualities such as job skills, age or education.

Immediate families approved for U.S. resettlement are kept together.  During resettlement processing. applicants are asked about other refugee relatives so that they can be resettled in the same cities.  Refugees are resettled in both urban and rural locations throughout the United States.

Each refugee is sponsored by a non-governmental organization in the United States that provides initial housing, basic furniture, food and clothing to help refugees when they first arrive.  These organizations also help refugees find jobs and enroll in English classed, and enroll their children in school.  Refugees can receive cash and medical assistance from the government for a limited period when they first arrive in the United States, but must find work quickly so that they can support themselves and their families.

After one year in the United States, refugees may apply for permanent residence, and after five years, U.S. citizenship.  Resettled refugees will be able to travel internationally, including to Bhutan when conditions there permit.

We would like to give special thanks to the Government of Nepal for its support of third country resettlement for the Bhutanese refugees.