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Friday, February 20, 2009

A beautiful lie or the ugly truth?

This Monday afternoon I packed a bag with teddy bears and went together with two exiled Bhutanese to Amsterdam Airport to receive their long awaited relatives. Me too felt the excitement as 33 tired but happy Bhutanese refugees quietly entered the arrival’s hall with IOM marked suitcases and young children in their arms. Their journey towards a new life had started in Kathmandu, Nepal several days ago. Emotionally, it has been a journey for seventeen years, and it is far from over yet.

These refugees are some of the 100,000 Bhutanese whose government refuse to acknowledge as citizens. They have been forced to reside in simple refugee camps in Nepal for almost twenty years with little opportunities to education, employment and medical care. Some of them are allowed resettlement in a third country they never heard of before. A small number of them are resettling in the Netherlands. 33 of them arrived this rainy Monday afternoon.

They are calm but also full of expectations about their new life in this new country. ‘ We are so happy to be here. We want to work hard and do our best to learn Dutch customs.’
A young, educated father looked my straight into my eyes with great anticipation: ‘Do you think we will have a good life here? Will our children be ok?’ Yes, of course I responded with as much optimism as I could manage. And I believe it. The Bhutanese are so full of desire, motivation and eager to integrate. Still, I feel guilty and a little worried as I hear the many stories of refugees that suffer sever traumas long after they are ‘integrated’. The experiences these people must endure in the near future should not be underestimated. Many arrive with great hopes for the future and are soon disillusioned.
But there is a place and time for such insights. The day of arrival is a time for celebration and optimism. I guess sometimes it is preferred to use a - somewhat modified - beautiful lie to a direct and ugly truth.

1 comment:

wim said...

A fine pice, Jenny !

It usefully reminds me of things happening in my own country that are important.
Thanks for your service.