US raises stateless Tibetans’ issue in Nepal

June 6th, 2011 - 5:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Kathmandu, June 6 (IANS) The US has expressed concern about the growing number of stateless people in Nepal, mostly young Tibetans, as Kathmandu refuses to let them register themselves officially for fear of incurring giant neighbour China’s displeasure.

Kelly Clements, deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, voiced “the concern of the US for the population of stateless persons in Nepal” during her two-day visit June 5-6, the US embassy said in statement Monday.

Though the statement did not provide further details, officials in Nepal’s foreign ministry said the visiting diplomat asked the Nepali authorities to allow Tibetan refugees in Nepal to register the birth of children born in Nepal.

The last census of Tibetan refugees, undertaken in 1990, put their population at around 20,000. However, since then, the number has increased though there is no official data.

Nepal issued identity cards to Tibetan refugees fleeing Chinese occupation and arriving in Nepal till 1989.

However, those who came after that live on the razor’s edge, liable to be sent back.

Also, both the registered and non-registered refugees have no official means of subsistence. The latter can’t register the birth of their children, who face difficulty while seeking admission in schools, opening bank accounts and for other official work.

From June 17, Nepal begins the new census. However, there is no indication till now whether it will also include the stateless, including Tibetans, Bhutanese and a lesser number of refugees from other countries.

Clements, the statement said, conveyed the Obama government’s appreciation “for Nepal’s commitment to ensure the safe transit of new (Tibetan refugee) arrivals to India and to respect the basic rights of Tibetans in Nepal”.

Nearly 3,000 Tibetans flee China-held Tibet every year to make a dangerous odyssey through snow-clad mountain passes to Nepal, braving death by cold and security forces’ bullets as well as arrests in Nepal.

They seek to make their way through Nepal to Dharamshala in India, the seat of their exiled leader, the Dalai Lama.

The US has also been seeking to resettle about 5,000 Tibetan refugees from Nepal on American soil.

However, the plan is yet to materialise due to strong opposition by China that says there were no Tibetan refugees but illegal immigrants who should be brought to justice for breaking the law.

Clements arrived in Nepal from Bhutan where she urged government leaders to take tangible immediate steps to help resolve the protracted Bhutanese refugee situation in Nepal as a sign of Bhutan’s commitment to democratic values and human rights.

The statement said Bhutan reiterated its April 2011 offer to the government of Nepal to reengage in bilateral discussions as soon as possible on the modalities for the voluntary return and reintegration of refugees with legitimate citizenship claims to Bhutan.

Over 106,000 Bhutanese had been living in UN-administered refugee camps in eastern Nepal for almost two decades after being evicted from the Buddhist kingdom.

Three years ago, with Bhutan refusing to allow the refugees to return, Nepal finally agreed to a proposal by the US and other western donor countries that the camp inmates be allowed to resettle on western soil.

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