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19january201010Tibetans arrested near Nepal-Tibet border handed over to UNHCR  
Nepalese immigration authorities have handed over ten Tibetan refugees, to United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Monday. The group was arrested in Dolakha, close to the border with Tibet, last week.

Immigration Department officials, who had earlier planned to hand them over to Chinese authorities, changed their mind after they found no proof of the refugees’ involvement in anti-China activities.

Nepal generally does not deport the Tibetans they find near the border, but there were reports that the eight men and two women could be handed over to the Chinese Embassy in Kathmandu. Instead, they were assigned to the UN refugee agency, said Mr Chandra Nath Gautam, an official in Nepal's Department of Immigration.

When interrogated, the detained refugees told immigration officers that they had crossed to border to go to India to meet their spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Nepal, already home to around 20,000 exiled Tibetans, has traditionally allowed new arrivals to transit through the country.

Hundreds of Tibetans escape every year through the mountains in Nepal en route to Dharmasala in India, where Tibet's spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, lives in exile.

Tibetans began arriving in Nepal in large numbers in 1959, when His Holiness and many others fled after a failed uprising. Those refugees who arrived in Nepal before 1990 were given permission to stay, and many have integrated successfully.

But in recent months, the exiled Tibetans' lives in the country have become increasingly difficult as the government of Nepal -- reportedly under heavy pressure from Beijing -- has sought to restrict their rights and activities.

The majority of Tibetan refugees make the dangerous journey on foot over Himalayan mountain trails without being detected by Chinese or Nepali authorities.

Sources revealed that the UNHCR pressured Nepal to release the Tibetan refugees into their custody, rather than handing them over to the Chinese.

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