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Beldangi II

Hello! Thank you for checking in. I know I haven’t posted in a while. I have been travelling almost every weekend and trying to get all my last minute site visits and souvenirs purchased before I head out of the country next week.

Finally, I can post about my visits to the refugee camp in Jhapa and I’ll have a few other more tourist-y posts over the course of the next few days.

The road to Jhapa

Like many trips here, everything seems to be planned at the last minute. A Nepali journalist I met happened to be going to Jhapa to do his own writing on the refugee crisis.H e knew he was going but didn’t know when…until a day or two before departure.

I don’t think it can be stressed enough that you need to be flexible when traveling in Nepal. But you neeeeed  to be flexible when traveling in Nepal.

The bus left on a Wednesday morning, 6am. The bus didn’t arrive until 7. Not too bad.

The trip to Jhapa is long and winding, East,  through the mountains into the rural plains. Total time? 12 hours. A drive that would take 9 if you didn’t stop. at least 3 or 4 of those hours were spent in the mountains. Turn left, turn right, turn left, turn right. Up a few hundred meters, and back down…and back up. Parts of the road flooded from the heavy monsoon rains but it doesn’t stop the caravans of travelers. The roads can’t accommodate the large city or tour buses only twelve passenger vans, jeeps, and motorbikes.

Out of the mountains the roads are flat. Think Ohio. and nothing to the right or left of you except rice paddies and corn.

It’s hot. It’s humid. But at least the air is cleaner than KTM.

Thursday: Beldangi Camp

There are two refugee camps remaining. The first I visited is called Beldangi II, the larger of the remaining two.

Now. It was a little risky going to the camp. I was supposed to have documentation from the government giving me permission for entry (which was a whole process in and of itself) which I was denied. The government is starting to get more strict on visa permissions and tourism in general. Understandably, why would any government want a tourist to see something that can be perceived as shameful to a nation?

The Bhutanese refugee crisis started as far back as the 1950’s with xenophobic legislation targeting the Lhotshampa (ethnic Nepali), more continued to be passed well into the 1970’s restricting rights and citizenship of people who had lived in the country for decades. The repercussions weren’t fully felt until the 1980’s when 1/6 of the population of Bhutan was expelled from the country.

Many of the Bhutanese refugees resettled to a third country, mostly the United States however, at least 8,000 remain in Nepal, most in the camps.

I spoke with the camp secretary, Tikaram, the democratically elected leader of the camp. He also acts as a sort of social worker to help other residents with resettlement paperwork, school, etc. His entire family resides in the United States but he was denied resettlement for an unknown reason.


I also spoke with school leaders. Everyone is worried because funding is being cut by the United Nations so rations, monthly allowances, and education funds are bring majorly cut. Education is now only provided until grade 4 after which students will have to travel to local Nepal schools for education.

It’s a strange situation. The UN only has as much power as a nation lets it. It cannot make policy decisions for a country or force a sovereign nation to accept a group of people. Bhutan refuses to allow its people back into the country, some are still in Bhutan prisons. Nepal refuses to grant papers to refugees. Resettlement stopped as of December 2016 These people are caught in a policy limbo of two nations, the UN, and a world that refuses to resettle them.

Some of them remember Bhutan fondly and wish to return. Others, like Tikaram, were expelled when they were just 5 or 6 but still wish to go back. Many were born in the camps and have only known life as a stateless person.

People rarely have the opportunities to visit camps and its leaves a weird sensation to have seen, even if they are closing these ones down. The news rarely talks about the refugee crisis except maybe about Syria.  The whole situation feels so hopeless, in Nepal and elsewhere, but people in the camp are clinging on to the optimism that they will return home one day. And I hope they do.





World Refugee Day

June 20th. World Refugee Day.

I have participated in WRD the past four years in Pittsburgh.

Cultural celebrations, food, crafts and activities and a citizenship ceremony for those who have lived in the country at least 10 years, met qualifications, completed paperwork paid fees, and made the decision to denounce their citizenship and loyalty to their home country.

The past week in the United States has been one policy disaster after another leading to the mistreatment of parents and children traveling from South and Central America to the US-Mexico border. A dangerous journey worth the risk because home is even more devastatingly dangerous.

This World Refugee Day my heart hurts.

I’ve stared at my computer screen for at least an hour. My Spotify playlist changing constantly because the music doesn’t ease my sadness or anger. Queen is always a good go to. Shuffle. Innuendo comes on. An unfamiliar song.

While we live according to race, color or creed

While we rule by blind madness and pure greed

Our lives dictated by tradition, superstition, false religion

Through the eons, and on and on

Oh yes we’ll keep on trying

We’ll tread that fine line

Oh we’ll keep on trying

Till the end of time

Till the end of time

That was 27 years ago. Freddie Mercury’s words still capture the struggle of humanity.

This year on WRD I am in Kathmandu, Nepal. An academic scholarship brought me here to study the social and geo-political relationships between nations’ governments and refugees.

Xenophobia, lies, racism, stereotypes, separation, heartlessness. Fear mongering.

For what?

party loyalty? a border wall? Probably just fear mongering.

I feel helpless. Stuck in another country for 5 more weeks.

I’m not going to deny that policy is complicated; that conflict and its consequences are complicated. Multifaceted. Someone loses something-even minor-in some way.

It doesn’t really matter to me if you support migrants, IDPs, refugees, and asylum seekers or not. You can leave the page and carry on with your life  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The US immigration system is broken and back logged-about 4 years. It stretches people thin. It denies humanity and protection. It is unfair.

Call your representatives. Write letters. Donate money. Donate supplies.

Legal Help

Comprehensive list from Business Insider

“As long as there are wars and persecution, there will be refugees. On World Refugee Day, I ask you to remember them”

-UN Secretary-General António Guterres









What is a refugee?


The ball is finally rolling- after long hours of research and internet sleuthing I am able to start the process to allow me to visit the refugee camp in Damak, Nepal. A special thanks to the perks of being a student (even a foreign one).

I can smell the bureaucracy.

Why a refugee camp? I was previously employed as a resettlement caseworker for about 2 years after completing my bachelor’s degree. I resettled individuals and families from Bhutan, Sudan, Myanmar (Burma), Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Iran, and Afghanistan (and I’m possibly forgetting some).  I hope my research can be a way to fully understand the resettlement process and to teach others about what is going on abroad.

So, what is a refugee? Well, you’re in one of the right places.

Currently, there are approximately 65.6 million displaced people around the world, most of them woman and children. Their status includes:

  • refugee
  • asylee
  • internally displaced person (IDP)
  • stateless person

A refugee is someone who has been forced to flee his or her country because of persecution, war, or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. They are most likely unable to return home due to conflict.

An asylee  is when a person flees their own country seeking sanctuary in another country, they apply for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee. Asylees cannot receive benefits until they are recognized as a refugee (think of those at the Mexico, US border).

An internally displaced person is someone remaining in their country of origin but has been forced to flee their village/city (think of those remaining in Syria who have not fled).

A stateless person is someone who is not a citizen of any country. They can be stateless due to a variety of reasons, including sovereign, legal, technical or administrative decisions or oversights.



For those of you who want to do a little more extensive reading Care has a ton of information on the global refugee crisis and ways you can help. 

Thanks for checking in! Coming soon: a deeper look into the Bhutanese refugee crisis; my meeting with a Bhutanese refugee living in Nepal.