Bhutanese Refugees open up to LWF General Secretary

Rev. Dr Martin Junge at Bhutanese Refugee camp, Damak Jhapa Nepal


Damak, 19 September 2018 – Rev. Dr Martin Junge, General Secretary, The Lutheran World Federation (LWF) visited Beldangi Refugee Camp at Damak of Jhapa District on September 14, 2018.

Rev. Dr Junge met with Self Help Group (SHG), Camp Management Committee (CMC) and Bhutanese Refugee Children Forum (BRCF) and interacted with the executive members and refugee community.

SHG members informed Rev. Dr Junge about their vision of coming together into the groups to strengthen their social unity and advance income generation. SHG was formed by refugee community for their self-reliance. There are 12 SHGs with regular savings, credit mobilization and support to business in Beldangi and Sanischare Camps. During the interaction a youth refugee said, “I want to live a dignified life utilizing my skills and knowledge in an effective way. I don’t want to confine myself within the boundaries of the camp. I want to contribute for the community and for the nation”.

Rev. Dr Junge applauded the willingness of the refugees to do something not just for themselves but for the nation as a whole. He said, “Till we all talk like this, we can work together and achieve success.” He highly appreciated the community-based approach taken by refugees that will give them voice and strengths.

The interaction at the CMC included CMC members and representatives from the local government. CMC acknowledged the support they have been receiving from LWF, UNHCR and   the local government. The Camp Secretary requested the General Secretary to advocate for durable solution of Bhutanese Refugees and raise their concerns in the international platform. They said "We have been living in dilemma with hope and possibility of change. We want durable solution so that we can live with dignity and integrity".

The General Secretary also interacted with BRCF. BRCF shared its plans and achievements. The Chief Coordinator of BRCF explained about their leadership potentials and the opportunities to participate in various children forum to advocate for child rights and child friendly development with the support from LWF and UNHCR.

He appealed the General Secretary for advocacy of refugee children for their rights in the context of Convention on Right of Child for which Nepal is signatory. He said, “We should be treated equally and not be deprived of any rights just because we were born and brought up at the refugee camp.”

BRCF Coordinator said, “BRCF has played a huge role in our lives, we have been able to utilize our talent and represent ourselves in the national and provincial level. Furthermore, we have been able to coordinate with child network and child clubs which has developed confidence in us.”

Following the interaction, Rev. Dr Martin Junge visited newly constructed stronger shelter which is ongoing with the support from UNHCR, LWF and the local government. A transect walk was conducted where the General Secretary interacted with families living in the shelter. In this regard, families expressed their happiness in living with newly constructed shelter which is more user friendly than previous shelter.

The refugees expressed gratitude to the support provide by LWF, UNCHR and the local government. The refugees largely mentioned “LWF has been with us for more than 27 years and we wish to have same kind of support and coordination in the coming days as well. Furthermore, LWF is the one of the first organizations to provide us support and we wish to have them by our side till the end.”

Rev. Dr Martin Junge committed that LWF will continue its support for the Bhutanese Refugees and the host community.

Text: Aagya Pokharel and Kritagya Regmi

Photo: Yogendra Gurung