Kathmandu: A UN agency looking after the refugee issue worldwide has expressed serious concerns regarding the fake Bhutanese refugee scam being investigated by Nepal Police.
On Wednesday, the UNHCR told the BBC Nepali that (the agency) was deeply concerned regarding the issue of duping Nepali citizens in the name of Bhutanese refugees.
The UNHCR has welcomed the on-going investigation being conducted by Nepal government.
The agency has also made it clear that the Bhutanese refugee resettlement process from Nepal was formally closed on December 31, 2016 and that there was no possibility to start the process again.
Described as one of the most successful refugee resettlement programs in the world, the UNHCR was involved in the resettlement of nearly 113,000 Bhutanese refugees in eight countries including the US, UK, Canada, Australia and The Netherlands. Over 90,000 of them were resettled in the US.
On Wednesday, Nepal Police arrested former Home Minister and Nepali Congress leader, Bal Krishna Khand, on suspicion of getting money from the middlemen. Former Deputy Prime Minister and CPN (UML) leader, Top Bahadur Rayamajhi, absconded after a district court issued arrest warrant against him. The CPN (UML) on Wednesday suspended him from the position of party’s Secretary until the investigation is over.
Reports suggest that a group of brokers collected millions of rupees from hapless youths and women saying that they will register their names as Bhutanese refugees and send them to the US. Senior Home Ministry officials are suspected to have been involved in the scam.
Police have already arrested former Home Secretary, Tek Narayan Pandey, on suspicion of receiving millions of rupees as kickback.
Experts say the scam has exposed the nexus of politicians-bureaucrats and middlemen nurturing systemic corruption in Nepal. Dr Gopal Krishna Siwakoti, an expert on refugee issue, said that the on-going saga could portray bad image of Nepal in front of the international community.
“Senior officials involved in the scam knew clearly that the (Bhutanese refugee) resettlement process was already stopped yet they (allegedly) accepted millions of rupees raised from hapless Nepalese through an elaborate scam,” Dr Siwakoti who is President of Inhured International—a human rights organization—told Nepal Live Today. “The on-going investigation should be conducted thoroughly and all those who are guilty must be brought to book.”
Over 6,000 Bhutanese refugees are still languishing in refugee camps in eastern Nepal. Some of them want to return to their country of origin, Bhutan, while others want to resettle abroad. But, the fake refugee scam could effectively close their options, experts say.