So many statistical goodies to sift through in the latest report on American asylum cases (PDF). But by far our favorite oddity can be glimpsed in the chart above. What’s going on with the Bhutanese? Only three citizens of the isolated kingdom claimed asylum in the U.S. three years ago, and then none in 2007. But then the hordes came last year. What gives? Are the Bhutanese masses far less happy than their monarchical government so famously claims?
In searching for the answer, we noted this cryptic paragraph in the report:
In 2008, the leading countries of nationality for refugee admissions were Burma (30 percent), Iraq (23 percent), and Bhutan (8.9 per cent) (see Table 3). Sixty-two percent of refugees were from these three countries. Iraqi refugee admissions increased over eight-fold from 1,608 in 2007 to 13,823 in 2008. The number of refugees from Bhutan increased from 0 in 2007 to 5,320 in 2008. As part of a 2008 multilateral agreement with six other nations, the United States agreed to resettle up to 60,000 Bhutanese refugees.
Getting those Lhotshampas out of immigration purgatory is an obvious good. But we’re curious regarding the politics of the agreement; the U.S. has recently been relatively hostile to asylum seekers from several other nations with more transparent relevance to our national interests, so why did the Lhotshampas receive such positive treatment? We didn’t realize that our government had such a keen interest in quelling Nepalese-Bhutanese tensions.
Read more about the Lhotshampas resettlement in the U.S. here; many of them are ending up as farm laborers in Vermont.
Update Down in comments, a wise counselor points out that some of the Bhutanese refugees are alighting across the Harlem River from Microkhan HQs.