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Nepal: UNHCR Deplores Attacks On Migration Org.

Nepal: UN Refugee Agency Deplores Attacks On Migration Organization

1 July 2008 - The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) today spoke out against last night's attacks on the compound of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in eastern Nepal.

The agency voiced concern that such violence could impede assistance to Bhutanese refugees - numbering some 108,000 - who have been living in seven camps in the South Asian nation since the early 1990s.

The IOM's office - where refugees are processed for resettlement to a third country - and bus parking area in Damak were rocked by three explosions. No injuries have been reported and police investigations are under way.

In a joint statement issued by IOM, UNHCR and the UN World Food Programme, the organizations said they are "shocked and outraged by this senseless attack, which is aimed at undermining the humanitarian efforts by the UN agencies and the international community to aid refugees from Bhutan who have been through decades of suffering in camps in eastern Nepal."

Yesterday's blasts are the latest in a series of recent violence directed against IOM. In May, two of the organization's buses were attacked while transporting Bhutanese refugees near the Khudunabari camp.

Despite the international community's agreement last year to resettle Bhutanese refugees who hope to begin new lives in third countries, some pro-repatriation groups in the camps are opposed.

"Each refugee and his or her family must have the freedom to make an informed choice on whether they would like to be considered for resettlement," said Daisy Dell, UNHCR's representative in Nepal. "Neither they nor the agencies helping them should be intimidated or threatened."

UNHCR, WFP and IOM called on these attacks to stop, stressing that the violence could thwart not only resettlement assistance to the Bhutanese refugees, but also hamper aid delivery.

ENDS

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