By Tenzin Dharpo
Nepalese police cracking down on Tibetan protestors in Kathmandu. file
DHARAMSHALA, Mar. 20: The United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo has said that Nepal has assured that Tibetan refugees will not be deported and their rights will be protected in the country.
The US Sec. of State said that during his meeting with Foreign Minister Pradeep Gyawali in the United States in the second week of December, he had reassured that Nepal will continue to protect the rights of the Tibetan refugees living in Nepal.
“I welcomed Foreign Minister Gyawali’s reassurance that Nepal would continue to protect the rights of Tibetans in Nepal, particularly the principle of non-refoulement, which ensures that individuals will not be returned to a country where they face serious threats to their life or their religious, cultural and linguistic freedoms,” Pompeo said in a statement.
Nepal which is home to more than 20,000 Tibetans who either came across the border or were born to settlers are finding it hard to sustain a free and normal existence. The Nepalese government’s treatment of the Tibetan refugees has taken a turn for the worse in the last few years with China’s influence getting more apparent by the day.
All Tibetan official and political gatherings have been banned and subject to harsh crackdown by the law enforcement personnel including peaceful protests by Tibetans.
However, there has been indications that the status quo can change. In July 2018, Tibetans in Nepal celebrated the birthday of their exiled Tibetan leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama after years of prohibition. The celebrations were joined in by US Ambassador Alaina B Teplitz and French Ambassador Yves Carmona as well as a high level representatives from the embassy of UK, Germany, Japan and Switzerland.
One of the few Tibetan refugee campsTashi Palkhiel camp in Pokhara Nepal. File photo
Secretary Sonam Norbu Dagpo of the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Information and International Relations told Phayul, "If what the Nepalese media has reported is true, the CTA welcomes the development and we hope it will pave the way forward to improving conditions for Tibetan refugees in Nepal."
The Kathmandu government which has helped Tibetans fleeing Tibet following the invasion of China has changed its policies in the 1990’s. Until the late eighties, the Nepalese government issued RC (Registration certificate) to Tibetans who came from Tibet as well as their children.
A “gentlemen’s agreement” to continue allowing Tibetan refugees to cross over into India was struck between the government of Nepal and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 1989 following the Kathmandu government refusal to give refugee status to Tibetans.
However, that agreement has since been pushed aside after Nepal started receiving a lucrative patronage from China. The influx of Tibetan refugees has been severely restricted with the once average of 2000 immigrants a year dropping to a lowly 200 since 2008 Uprising in Tibet. In an extreme case of heavy handedness, 18 Tibetans including some children in 2003, and 3 Tibetans in 2010 were detained by Nepalese police and handed over to Chinese authorities in Tibet.