Thursday, June 20, 2013

What is life like for a Bhutanese asylum seeker living in Germany?

A few days ago Hemlal Mainaly, a Bhutanese asylum seeker living in Germany, offered to provide information for my blog about the problems he has encountered. I decided to interview Hemlal because of my interest in Bhutan. However, his responses remind me that whatever problems people like Hemlal may pose for the governments of countries in which they seek asylum, they are seeking opportunities for happiness that most other people take for granted.

An edited version of the interview follows:

Hemlal, would you please introduce yourself to readers of Freedom and Flourishing?
I am a 33year old single male, currently living in Germany at Hodenhagen. I have studied applied science, and have obtained a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc) from Tribhwan University, Kathmabdu Nepal.
I am the youngest member of my family. My parents, both age 67 years, have been living in the US at Syracuse, NY since 2010 under a UNHCR resettlement program. I have 5 sisters, four of whom have also been living in the US. My brother, travelled to the Netherlands in 2005 and his political claims were recognized immediately by the Netherlands authorities. He obtained Netherlands citizenship through naturalization in 2011.

Why did you leave Bhutan?
The government of Bhutan confiscated my immovable properties and terminated the nationality of my parents at gun point. It accused us of involvement in the democratic and peaceful protest that took place in 1990 in Bhutan. The royal authorities declared us traitors and at forced us to sign the ‘’voluntary’’ emigration form.
I left Bhutan in 1991 when I was just 12. We migrated to Nepal and lived at the Bhutanese Refugee Camp at Beldangi 2, aided by UNHCR.

How did you come to live in Germany?
The failure of 16 rounds of bilateral negotiations between the governments of Nepal and Bhutan to resolve the refugee problem left no hope of dignified repatriation of refugees to Bhutan. The degree of frustration among young refugees increased and the security situation became fragile. Insurgent groups formed within the refugee communities aiming to begin armed revolution to Bhutan. The position of those opposed to such groups became insecure as refugees started killing each other in an astonishing way.
Meanwhile, third countries had developed proposals to resolve the Bhutanese refugee problem by offering voluntary resettlement. The resettlement proposals added butter on the fire in the refugee communities. The communities divided, one side accepting resettlement while the other maintaining that dignified repatriation was the only the solution.

I campaigned for third country resettlement for a long time while living at Kathmandu, the capital of Nepal. As a result, threats were made on my life and I was not able to go back to the refugee camp. I escaped to Germany in 2007 for my own safety. I had to leave Nepal to protect my life.

What have you been doing since you went to Germany?
Since the beginning of 2007, I have been doing absolutely nothing. My political asylum petitions have been refused by the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees and by the Federal Court for irrelevant and incredible reasons. The German authorities accused me of leaving Bhutan voluntarily. They claim that Bhutanese who were expelled following the 1990 protests are not political refugees.

Currently, I have a short residency permit  for the period of six months issued in November 2012.This is something like temporary toleration and valid  as long as the authorities are not able to get travel documents for my deportation to Bhutan . The Bhutanese Embassy at Brussels has apparently not responded to inquiries from the aliens authority.
I have no travel documents, but I am not able to take an integration course. My residency permit does not give me the right to leave German territory. I do not even have the right to visit the Netherlands to see my brother.

Do you consider conditions for asylum seekers in Germany are better or worse than in other countries?
To be very honest, on the basis of my suffering in Germany for last seven years, I caution refugees around the globe please never to step into Germany seeking protection. This is the worst place for refugees and asylum seekers. In the name of giving protection, this jurisdiction destroys the lives of thousands of refugees. They suppress people mentally and paralyse them.

Many resettled Bhutanese refugees have told me that the conditions of life for asylum seekers in other EU states are far better than in Germany, and conditions for asylum seekers in Australia, Canada and the US are also better than here. I would like to express heartfelt thanks to the US government for resettling over 70 thousand Bhutanese refugees at a time when it has been struggling to cope with economics crises. The Bhutanese refugee community will remember this act of kindness for all time.

What are your hopes for future?
I have tried all possible ways to obtain refugee status, but without success. I feel hopeless, helpless and paralysed. My future seems very gloomy, terrible and pathetic. I do not know what will happen from one day to the next.  I have no future prospect in Germany. I would request assistance from all the third countries who have been resettling the Bhutanese refugees.

I also request the diplomatic missions of USA, Australia and all core groups states to pressure the German authorities to open their eyes to the suffering of refugees. There is too much suffering. Enough is enough!

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