Omar Havana

Photographer
    
My Country Is My Family
Location: Paris, France
Nationality: Spanish
Biography: Omar Havana, 1975 Granada, Spain. Spanish Freelance Photojournalist. Based in Paris, France. Previously based in Asia. ( Nepal 2014-2015 and Cambodia 2008 - 2014 ; 2015-2017) Omar has worked as a professional photojournalist since 2005, and since... read on

Surrounded by stunning forest, Beldangi is an example of how a refugee camp should be. Only one banner and a barrier at the main entrance indicate that some 22,000 Bhutanese refugees still live there with the dilemma of not knowing to which country they belong. After Bhutan expelled hundreds of thousands of people following a campaign of ethnic cleansing by the Bhutanese Government against the country's ethnic Nepali population over twenty years ago, Nepal took the refugees in and now countries such as the United States and Canada are waiting for them to finally start rebuilding their lives away from the mountains under which they grew up. 

The resettlement program for Bhutanese refugees in Nepal is one of the largest in the world, if not the largest. Over 108,000 of the approximately 120,000 refugees who fled from Bhutan to Nepal in the early 1990s have already been resettled in third countries, including over 90,000 in the United States alone, and many of them are already well on their way to building new lives. After more than 20 years in Nepal, over 90% of the refugees have been successfully resettled in third countries, thanks to programs by UNHCR and IOM.

With little prospect of being able to settle permanently in Nepal, resettlement in a third country is the only foreseeable option for many of Bhutan’s refugees. And with many already settled in the US or other countries, many see leaving Nepal as a hope for a better future, especially for the younger generation. Yet, after living in refugee camps for close to 25 years, the journey to a foreign country, where they will have to get accustomed to a completely new way of life, learn a new language, and adapt to a new culture, is one that is fraught with worries.

Those remaining the camps are supported by several organizations that undertake a wide variety of projects. Helped by remittances sent back to Nepal by families already resettled in other countries, the refugees still in the camps have set up their own small businesses in the camps and the roads near them, roads which are also replete with Nepali-owned businesses who benefit directly from the refugees that are still waiting in Nepal to be resettled in third countries.

“There are no other options aside from being an American. The Bhutanese people won’t take us back. In the past, there was a lot of talk about them taking us back, but now that hope is also gone,” says 51-year-old Duku Maya Dhakal, who is being resettled in the US with her husband and two teenage children

“Everyone wants to go back to their homelands, where they were born. But if life is good in America, why would we want to go back to Bhutan?” she adds.


 


Photography: © Omar Havana / Getty Images. All Rights Are Reserved

Story published in Al Jazeera and De Correspondent Article by Juliette Rousselot.


Thanks to UNHCR and IOM for collaborating in the realization of this story.
831

By Omar Havana —

VISUAL STORY

The Bucolic Life of a Cambodian Grandmother Accused of Mass Killings

By Omar Havana — In this dusty mountain hamlet on the Thai border, she is known as Grandma Chaem. The tiny 74-year-old lives peacefully in a snug, stilted house..
VISUAL STORY

They Smashed Banks for Pol Pot. Now They’re Founding Them

By Omar Havana — When the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1979, they retreated to strongholds like Malai on the western fringes of Cambodia along with thousands of..
VISUAL STORY

Breaking tradition among Nepal's Maithil women

By Omar Havana — Like many women in the Maithil community in Nepal, Manjula Thakur found her life severely restricted and controlled by the male members of her..
VISUAL STORY

Bonjour, Paris

By Omar Havana — "The meaning of the other and love have disappeared from this society. Without money, people do not exist."  - Jean, a 33-year-old..
VISUAL STORY

Trapped: the Dark Side of Cambodia's Beer Gardens

By Omar Havana — Throughout Cambodia, thousands of women, most of them under the age of 25, work in beer gardens, karaoke bars and private parties promoting beer..
VISUAL STORY

When the Earth Shook Nepal

By Omar Havana — A 7.8 magnitude earthquake struck Nepal on April 25th, 2015, shaking the already-impoverished nation to its core, killing over 8,000 people,..
VISUAL STORY

A woman's Cry: The detention of Tep Vanny

By Omar Havana — Tep Vanny is Cambodia’s most famous activist and the leader of the women of Boeung Kak Lake, who stormed the country after their forced..
VISUAL STORY

Devotees of the Ink

By Omar Havana — Once a year, thousands of people from all over Thailand travel to the Wat Bang Phra temple, located about 70 kilometers outside of Bangkok in..
VISUAL STORY

Inside a Cambodian Slaughterhouse

By Omar Havana — In a country where the demand for meat is ever-increasing and where pork is generally favored, Cambodia’s swine slaughterhouses are an..
VISUAL STORY

The Way

By Omar Havana — More than 100,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Greece since the beginning of 2016. They cross the Mediterranean, risking their lives to..
VISUAL STORY

The Khmer Fighters

By Omar Havana — Pradal Serey or Kun Khmer -free fighting- is an unarmed martial art from Cambodia. Compared to other forms of Southeast Asian kickboxing, Kun Khmer..
VISUAL STORY

Evicting Dreams: The Last Days of the White Building

By Omar Havana — On June 6th, the faces of the residents of the White Building showed the sadness of what were their last days home. During those days, people..
VISUAL STORY

The Angkor Hell

By Omar Havana — Just a few dozen kilometers away from the world-famous Angkor temples, about 300 people have lived for the last three years in a rapidly expanding..
VISUAL STORY

La Vie En Jaune

By Omar Havana — Hundreds of thousands of “Gilet Jaunes” (meaning “Yellow Vest” in French) have taken to the streets of France every weekend..
Join us
for more access