Bhutanese arriving soon in Everett, WA

Here is another article about the Bhutanese refugees who have started to arrive in the United States from camps in Nepal.  It’s long but I encourage you to read the whole thing to better understand the situation with the Bhutanese since we are expected to take upwards of 60,000 of them over the next few years.  And, see what I have to say about problems with refugee resettlement.

Here is a segment from the beginning of this article by Krista Kaprolos at the Herald Net:

For about 100,000 people, living in Bhutan was more about basic survival than fairy-tale mountain living. They were driven out of Bhutan in the early 1990s, and ever since, they have been living in refugee camps in Nepal, where they aren’t allowed to work and are stuck at the bottom of an intricate caste system.

Now, more than half of those refugees, known as Lhotsampas, “People of the South,” are preparing to come to the United States. The first wave, a trickle of just a few families, came early this year.

Within weeks, 18 Bhutanese refugees are expected to arrive in Everett.

“Nepal is unable to integrate them,” said Jan Stephens of Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, the organization that will resettle the Bhutanese in Everett.

All but one of the 18 Bhutanese scheduled to come to Everett are under 30 years old, Stephens said. It’s likely that they speak English, which is taught in Bhutanese schools, but their heritage is one of rural mountain culture.

“The one potential downside is that it’s not a group of people who have lived in urban environments before,” said Joel Charny of Refugees International, an advocacy group in Washington, D.C. Charny visited the refugee camps in Nepal late last year.

Then, here is my input: 

While some refugee advocates welcome them, others worry that local agencies that contract with the federal government to find housing, jobs and perform other services can’t keep up with the number being resettled here. In many cases, refugees are offered services for a limited number of months, then must fend for themselves.

The process of refugee resettlement, which awards money to local agencies to care for the refugees, is flawed, said Ann Corcoran, author of Refugee Resettlement Watch, a blog that keeps tabs on resettlement trends.

It’s not realistic to expect refugees to become self-sufficient so quickly, she said. Another potential difficulty is if the refugee group rejects American culture. One reason some groups have done well is that they embrace the opportunities America offers.

“The Vietnamese came here and decided to work hard and become Americans,” she said. Others, such as some strict Muslims, are offended by what they find here and become isolated. 

I would rephrase that last line, to read instead of “become isolated” to read “choose to become isolated.” 

And, finally here is a little tidbit of news that is not reassuring:   some of these mostly Hindu and Buddhist refugees are, according to this article, polygamous. 

In most cases, the refugees will have little experience with modern homes, including refrigerators and other kitchen equipment. Polygamy exists among Lhotsampas, but it is not widespread.

Does anyone know if that is true?  Muslims practice polygamy as do some extreme Christian groups, but I guess I’m pretty ignorant about Hindus and Buddhists on that score.

See our previous posts on the Bhutanese here.


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