By Nir Kumar Bhandari and Durga Dahal, IOM Nepal
My name is Nir Kumar Bhandari from Birtamode, Jhapa. I am a driver by profession and have been serving the Bhutanese refugee population since 1991 when they first came here, both with an International Non-Government Organization from the UK and now with IOM.
In 1991 when I saw large masses of people arriving on trucks, I wondered who they were and where they are coming from, later I came to know that they were Bhutanese citizens of Nepali origin. At the beginning they camped on the banks of Kankai River. They were living in miserable conditions without food, medicines or proper shelter. I wanted to help them in any way I could, and got an opportunity to work for Save the Children, UK. While working there I ferried many sick people to different hospitals. Some got well in hospitals while some died on the way there. Some pregnant woman even gave birth inside the vehicle on the way to hospital.
The work was really rewarding because I got an opportunity to serve the neediest people. After finishing my work with them, I then left Nepal to work as a migrant worker.
Later I came back home and got an opportunity to join International Organization for Migration (IOM) where I have been working since 2008 as a driver. Here I assist many refugees departing for resettlement in third countries. I drive many refugees in buses from camps for resettlement activities. It is wonderful to see refugees proceed through every step of the process, from initial interviews at IOM to driving them to the airport to open a new door in their life.
At the initial stage people came from remote villages in the hills of Bhutan and they had little understanding of modern facilities. Some of them even were seeing vehicles for the first time in their lives. Today, after 24 years, the community has changed like to the opposite side of coin. They are now familiar with laptops, cell phones, fancy fashions and fashionable jewelry. Some have learnt how to drive, and some have even obtained professional training as doctors and engineers. The progress they have made makes me very happy.
On 25 April a strong earthquake occurred in Nepal that caused casualties and enormous loss of property. Thankfully the refugee camps were not damaged by the earthquakes, but everyone in the country is scared and wants to help reconstruct Nepal. A group of Bhutanese even traveled to the worst hit area to build bamboo houses and teach the Nepali how to build these on their own.
I was called to assist with IOM by driving cars in one of the worst hit districts: Sindhulpalchowk. For 17 days I helped affected people by driving and distributing relief materials to many vulnerable communities. It was terrible to see my country suffer, but I was so happy to be a part of the global relief effort which so many Nepali and people from around the world have contributed to.
Nir Kumar Bhandari is a driver in IOM Damak
Bhutanese refugees line up to board the bus that will take them to the airport to depart to Kathmandu. Typically, Bhutanese refugees from eastern Nepal spend 3-6 nights at the Transit Centre in Kathmandu prior to their commercial flight to the country of resettlement. During this time, refugees undergo a final fitness-to-travel examination, and a final Cultural Orientation session as a part of the transit process. © IOM 2015
As of 31 May 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Nepal has facilitated the departure of 96,404 Bhutanese refugees to 8 countries of resettlement which are Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, and the United States of America.
IOM is working in close collaboration with the Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR NEPAL), the Government of Nepal and eight Resettlement Governments to facilitate selection missions, conducts medical examination of refugees selected for resettlement as per the protocol of the destination country, conducts cultural orientation for the destination countries, facilitates exit permits and arranges travel for the refugees until their final destination.
For further information on IOM activities please visit:
and follow us on twitter @IOM_Nepal