The Changing Lens on Gender Resettled Refugee from Bhutan in the US/ Photo Credit: UNHCR, K Das Shrestha
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

The High Commissioner for Refugees is mandated by the United Nations to lead and coordinate international action for the worldwide protection of refugees and the resolution of refugee problems. UNHCR's primary purpose is to safeguard the rights and well-being of refugees. In its efforts to achieve this objective, the Office strives to ensure that everyone can exercise the right to seek asylum and find safe refuge in another State, and to return home voluntarily. By assisting refugees to return to their own country or to settle permanently in another country, UNHCR also seeks lasting solutions to their plight. UNHCR's Executive Committee and the UN General Assembly have authorized involvement with other groups. These include former refugees who have returned to their homeland; internally displaced persons; and people who are stateless or whose nationality is disputed.
The Office seeks to reduce situations of forced displacement by encouraging states and other institutions to create conditions which are conducive to the protection of human rights and the peaceful resolution of disputes. In all of its activities, it pays particular attention to the needs of children and seeks to promote the equal rights of women and girls. The Office works in partnership with governments, regional organizations, international and non-governmental organizations. It is committed to the principle of participation, believing that refugees and others who benefit from the organization's activities should be consulted over decisions which affect their lives.

Refugees from Bhutan

The third country resettlement programme is continuing successfully with strong cooperation between the Government of Nepal (GoN), resettlement countries, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR. Since the start of the resettlement programme in late 2007, 87,699 individuals have departed for their new homes. The United States has accepted the largest number: 74,052, followed by Canada 5,787, Australia 4,900, New Zealand 866, Denmark 860, Norway 550, the United Kingdom 358, and the Netherlands 326.

Currently, 29,476 refugees from Bhutan remain hosted in two camps in eastern Nepal: Beldangi in Jhapa district and Sanischare in Morang district. Nearly 75% of them (22,023 refugees) have declared interest in resettlement.

Tibetan new arrivals

UNHCR facilitates the safe transit of Tibetan new arrivals through Nepal to India and ensures that their protection and material needs are addressed while in Nepal. With respect to the estimated 20,000 Tibetans refugees in Nepal, their rights are limited and many lack access to documentation. UNHCR continues to advocate with the authorities in favour of the issuance of documentation for this group of long-staying Tibetans in Nepal.

Urban asylum-seekers and refugees

UNHCR provides protection and assistance to some 500 urban asylum-seekers and refugees. They are considered by the Government of Nepal to be illegal migrants although in practice the authorities have been tolerant. UNHCR ensures that refugees have access to adequate reception and health facilities, and provides subsistence and education allowance. Resettlement remains the only durable solution for most of the urban refugees.

People without access to citizenship certificates

UNHCR works with national partners to support legal awareness and activities to enable marginalized groups to acquire citizenship certificates. Working together with UN and national partners, UNHCR also supports advocacy and awareness raising campaigns on citizenship and registration of birth, death, marriage and divorce, carried out by civil society.

Country office: Kathmandu

Sub-office: Damak, Jhapa district

Working with partners

Implementing Partners:

  • Government: Ministry of Home Affairs

    NGOs: Association of Medical Doctors of Asia (AMDA Nepal); CARITAS Nepal; Forum for Protection of Public Interest (Pro Public Nepal); Lutheran World Federation; Nepal Bar Association; Trans-cultural Psychosocial Organisation (TPO Nepal); Dalit NGO Federation, Forum for Women, Law and Development

    Others: UNV; UNOPS

    Operational Partners:
    International Catholic Migration Commission (ICMC); International Organisation for Migration (IOM); WFP