“UNHCR facilitates the safe transit of Tibetan new arrivals through Nepal to India, where they visit to meet their spiritual Guru the Dalai Lama, and ensures that their protection and material needs are addressed while in Nepal,” the UNHCR said today at a press conference to mark International Refugees Day.
This statement came in the midst of a recent report by Human Rights Watch entitled ‘Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal’ which documented restrictions imposed on Tibetans in Nepal as a result of strong pressure from China. Over 20,000 Tibetan refugees have entered Nepal since 1959.
Human Rights Watch has urged the Nepalese government to uphold its legal obligation towards Tibetans, under the terms of the “Gentleman’s Agreement” signed between the government of Nepal and UNHCR.
Under the terms of this agreement, Nepal guarantees Tibetans who reach its territory safe passage to India, where they can obtain refugee status. International law prohibits Nepal from forcibly repatriating Tibetan refugees because they would be at risk of torture or persecution in China.
Human Rights Watch has stated that it is becoming more difficult for Tibetans to obtain documentation that would allow them to go to school, seek employment, run businesses, travel abroad, or engage in other activities.
The consequences of Nepal’s hardening stance are being felt across the Tibetan community. Nepal continues to deny at least half the Tibetans in Nepal proper identity documents, making Tibetans more vulnerable to increased surveillance, monitoring, and abuse by police or the criminal justice system, regardless of whether they are politically active.
It is harder for Tibetans to obtain documentation that would allow them to go to school, seek employment, run businesses, travel abroad, or engage in other activities, Human Rights Watch said.
Nepal is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans - for many from as far back as 1959, when their spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, fled to India after a failed uprising against China's rule.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are an estimated 15,000 long-staying Tibetan refugees who arrived in Nepal prior to 1990, of whom more than half lack any form of documentation, preventing them from getting regular access to education and legal employment. UNHCR continues to advocate for the issuance of documentation to long-staying Tibetan refugees.
Tibetans in Nepal say they face restrictions from Nepalese authorities, particularly around significant Tibetan anniversaries, with activists accusing Beijing of using aid and investment in Nepal to ensure the government prevents any anti-Chinese activity.