Locals of Ganamani VDC of Jhapa district have shut-down the Goldhap refugee camp by restricted entry of vehicles belonging to the United Nations, International Organisation for Migration (IOM) and Government of Nepal into the camp and barring refugees to travel outside.

Refugees of Goldhap camp pass their time under the shed of a tree/Courtesy : Alice Verheij

Agitating locals, who have been floating various demands to the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) and the government before relocating refugees from the camp to three Beldangi camps, have been blocking the main entrance to camp since Thursday.

On Friday, they even closed a government office managed by camp supervisor Pashupati Niraula, who somehow had managed to enter the camp early morning.

Altogether 22 vehicles that reached the camp to carry relocating refugees from Goldhap to Beldangi returned yesterday, informed camp secretary Chiranjibi Rai.

“Refugees have been warned of not leaving the camp save their emergencies. Thus, the situation today is more compelling as locals have even not allowed UN vehicles to get into the camp,” Rai told Bhutan News Service.

Shanta Upreti, who heads the agitating group, expressed that the protest would continue unless their demands are met.

“We may decide to discontinue the ongoing protest if we receive written commitment regarding fulfillment of our demands from the government and the UNHCR,” Upreti said adding, “Otherwise, we will intensify the protest programmes.”

Meanwhile, Chief District Officer Sashi Shekar Shrestha told that negotiations with the agitating locals were underway.

However, Upreti ruled out this saying the group has not received any official call from the government for dialogue.

At least four resettling refugees and several others attending interviews at IOM and UNHCR walked up to Garamani from the camp early this morning to catch buses.

The locals have been demanding a blacktopped road connect Goldhap with Butabari (7 km), Garamani (5.5 km) and Dewania (4.5 km).

“We want the government and UNHCR to set up a botanical garden in the camp settlement area once the camp gets shifted to Beldangi,” Upreti added.

“The locals have also demanded schooling and health services in the VDC.”

The camp still hosts around 2100 refugees. The UNHCR has also relocated 1800 refugees to the Beldangi camps.