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11,215 kmfrom home
“As soon as I get enough money I’ll come back and visit Bhutan. I’ve not been there for 20 years; my daughters were born here as refugees"
Current Country: 
United States
Country of Origin: 

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Suman Basnet (42) and her daughters Emma and Numa (17 and 19) are getting used to life in the USA, having left Nepal late last year US Refugee Admissions Program, after almost two decades in a Nepalese refugee camp. In the 1990s, tens of thousands of ethnic Nepalese fled violence and persecution in neighbouring Bhutan. Almost 100,000 have been resettled by IOM, mainly to the USA, but also to Australia, Canada, Denmark, the Netherlands and Norway. Suman and her two daughters now call the City of Angels - Los Angeles – home. One of their cousins left Nepal some years back and is running a small but thriving beauty parlour. We met them on the day they were due to leave – full of nerves, chatter and excitement. Their future is bright. They all speak excellent English, honed by years of teaching the language to fellow refugees in unofficial schools. The girls are full of chatter about LA, the studies they want to pursue, but the mother’s face, though smiling, betrays a deep sadness. “As soon as I get my green card and enough money I will come back and visit Bhutan. I’ve not been there for 20 years; my daughters were born here as refugees, but I love my country. I love Bhutan”. She left, she says, because of the threat of rape in a time of conflict. As a young woman she saw the sexual violence meted out by soldiers on her peers. She doesn’t want to say much, but her daughters are proud independent women, and they interject: “She told us what happened. Women were tied up in trees and repeatedly raped. She hid in the roofspace to avoid it.” Life as a refugee has been hard. “They would bully us,” says Numa. “They’d say we smell and eat worms, but it all stopped three years ago when we went into the resettlement programme. They thought they might get some benefits if they were nicer to us.” Their plans for America are grounded in realism. “It’s not going to be easy. We will have to work hard,” says Suman. But you know, you just know when you hear them talk and you see their faces, that they are going to be OK. They have been waiting years for this, the day of departure. Their last staging post is the IOM transit centre in Kathmandu – the last link in a chain of self and guided preparation in everything from how to get a job to how to fasten an aeroplane safety belt

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