Elderly Bhutanese refugees alone in Dashain

Published On: October 16, 2018 09:00 AM NPT By: YUVRAJ BIWAS

DAMAK, Oct 16: It has been 27 years since Septuagenerian Harka Jung Subba, a Bhutanese national, has been living the life of a refugee in Nepal. All of his family members except for his wife went to the United States of America (USA) during the third-country resettlement program. They often send him money for his medicines and other expenses. As usual, they have sent him some money for this Dashain as well. But it failed to bring any smile to the faces of the elderly couple. Even after so many years, he and his wife still have dreams about returning to their homeland one day.

"All our loved ones are in the USA, and two of us are waiting to go back to our own home in Bhutan," said Subba. He recalls how fun Dashain used to be in the past when all 80 members of his large family used to gather for celebration. Sadly, his once lively hut is now almost empty. Every year, at least one of their family members used to visit the old couple during Dashain but this year no one has arrived yet.

So many elderly refugees in the camp are hopeful that they will one day be able to return to their homes. They have been left out alone in the camps in their twilight years.

Purna Bahadur Subba, who recently turned 85, has started having blurred vision due to his old age. He lost his third and the youngest wife three years ago and has been living alone in the camp since then. His family members too are in the USA.

Few months ago, he was delighted as his granddaughter reached to the camp to see him. "I'm sad that I had nothing to offer her," Purna Bahadur said. Despite his old age, he manages two squares of meal for himself by doing intense hard work. Unlike his other old mates, he is less hopeful about getting back to Bhutan.

"It would have been great if I could meet with my loved ones and we could observe festivals together. But I have already grown old and feeble, I don't think there will be anyone for my funeral," said Purna Bahadur.

Around 7,000 Bhutanese refugees are currently sheltering in Nepal. According to Purna Bahadur, those who are remaining in the tents are the ones who desperately want to return to their country.

As all the other members flew to America, DB Subba, former secretary of Bhutanese Refugee Camp, Beldangi is currently living with his wife and younger daughter.

Around 100,000 Bhutanese refugees were resettled in the USA. "It feels bad when we don't get to celebrate festivals with our loved ones. But I hope we will be able to do that after returning to our homeland one day," said former secretary Budha. He stated that after living a miserable life in the tents for two decades, a large number of refugees went to the USA seeking better facilities and opportunities.

As the third country resettlement program has ended, time has come to find out a permanent solution for the refugees, says Tikaram Rasaili, secretary of Beladangi Refugee Camp. "The remaining refugees should be allowed to go back to their nation," Rasaili said.


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