DHARAMSHALA: The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has said it would facilitate the safe passage of Tibetan refugees through Nepal.
“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 comes in the backdrop 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. There are over 20,000 Tibetan refugees in Nepal since 1959.
Human Rights Watch have urged the Nepal 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 the 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.
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.