The New York Times reported this week about the new lives of Bhutanese/Nepalese refugees resettling in the Bronx. These 170 resettled by the International Rescue Committee are a tiny fraction of the 60,000 the US will be taking over 5 years.
All of the newcomers are Bhutanese of Nepalese ethnicity who had migrated to Bhutan or were descended from immigrants. In the early 1990s, Bhutan expelled tens of thousands of Nepali Bhutanese, most of them from poor farming families, accusing them of immigrating illegally. The majority ended up in seven refugee camps in Nepal, where they lived in bamboo-and-thatch huts and were cared for by international aid agencies.
Bhutan refused to take them back and Nepal refused to give them citizenship. In 2007, the United States agreed to resettle at least 60,000 of them. The first arrived in early 2008.
There isn’t much in this article that we haven’t reported before about how they came to be in the US, but I was interested in this report on their living conditions. Early in the article the reporter describes a sparsely furnished apartment.
The place was furnished with a couple of bureaus, several beds that doubled as couches and little else.
The federally contracted resettlement agencies sign a contract with the US State Department and commit to supply certain furnishings. It sounds like these folks may have not gotten everything they were supposed to get—a common complaint.
Then this really attracted my attention. The landlord of this 60-unit building is somehow connected to the International Rescue Committee. What is the connection? Does anyone know? One of those rumors we are always trying to nail down is that some landlords have ‘insider’ connections with resettlement agencies.
Through an elaborate process involving consultation between resettlement agencies, about 170 Bhutanese refugees have been placed in New York. The families at 2515 University Avenue were brought by the International Rescue Committee, an agency that has a longstanding relationship with the landlord.
Whatever the connection, the building is not without its dangers.
Mr. Tamang said that one day his elderly parents, who speak no English, were alone in their apartment when they heard loud knocking. Opening the door, the father was confronted by several young men. Although he understood none of the words the men were using, he gathered from their angry gestures that they were looking for a missing bicycle and were demanding to search the apartment.
Mr. Tamang said his father, small and mild-mannered, stepped aside to allow the group to enter, but the men eventually went away, leaving the father shaken.
“They were trying to get in,” Mr. Tamang recalled, surprise and pain in his voice. “We are very honest people.” Mr. Tamang said he would no longer leave his parents without one of their English-speaking children.
We recently told you about a Bhutanese young man killed by an African American thug in a dangerous Jacksonville neighborhood where he had been resettled, here. It appears that another refugee in this Bronx building writes a blog and that Florida murder is one of the stories he has posted for his community here and back home. Check out ‘Journalism in Exile’ here.
Note to new readers: To understand why there are problems in the camps in Nepal and why a journalist might be missing there, you can go to this previous post of mine and learn about the politics of those (Maoists!) who do not want the Bhutanese to be scattered across the world.