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Nepal has reassured it would continue to protect rights of Tibetans in the country: US Secretary of State

  • Pompeo says US emphasis on a free and open Indo-Pacific region is very much in Nepal’s interest

ANIL GIRI, Kathmandu

Mar 19, 2019-

Nepal has given assurance to US officials that it would continue to protect
the rights of the Tibetans refugees living in Nepal, according to the US
Secretary of State.

In a congratulatory message to the Prime Minister KP Sharma Oli on
completion of one year in office, Mike Pompeo 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.

Pompeo’s message to Oli is seen as a thaw in Nepal-US ties, particularly against
the backdrop of a recent controversy on Venezuela’s internal crisis
after Pushpa Kamal Dahal, co-chair of the ruling Nepal Communist Party,
criticised the US and its allies’ intervention in domestic political
affairs of the South American country.

“When I met with Foreign Minister Gyawali recently, in the same
room where you [PM Oli] met with then Secretary Condoleezza Rice in
2006, I reaffirmed the US commitment to our relationship and conveyed
our wish to foster a genuine partnership,” Pompeo said in the statement.

“Recognising your own experience as a political prisoner, 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 added in his
message to Oli.

Nepal is hosting around 11,000 Tibetans refugees in 12 refugee camps across the country.

The US officials have been continuously lobbying to provide
refugee cards to them for travel, job or pursuing higher education.
Nepal stopped issuing refugee cards to the Tibetan refugees in 1995. The
Nepal government does not recognise Tibetans who arrived in the country
after 1990 as refugees.

The human rights report 2018 released by the State Department
last week stated that most Tibetans who arrived after 1990 transited to
India, although an unknown numbers remained in the country. “The
government has not issued refugee cards to Tibetan refugees since 1995.
The UN refugee office estimated that three-quarters of the roughly
12,000 resident Tibetan refugees remained undocumented, including all of
whom were younger than the age of 16 in 1995 or had been born since.”

Nepali officials time and again said that Nepal is not the party
to the refugee convention but it has been hosting Tibetans, Bhutanese
and urban refugees on the humanitarian grounds.

Since Nepal has been committed to one-China policy and recognises
Tibet as integral part of China, successive governments in Nepal have
prevented Tibetan refugees from holding any kind of demonstration and
protest against China inside Nepal.

The State Department’s report on human rights further claimed
that after China heightened security in 2008 during the Beijing Olympics
along its border and increased restrictions on internal freedom of
movement for ethnic Tibetans, the number of Tibetans who transited
through the country dropped significantly.

The UN refugee office reported that 53 Tibetans transited the
country in 2017, and 31 between January and September, the report
stated.

The government issued UNHCR-facilitated exit permits for recent
arrivals from Tibet who were transiting while travelling to India. In
the early 1990s, Nepal and the West had reached a “gentlemen’s
agreement” to provide safe passages to Tibetans living in Nepal or those
crossing the border to reach Dharamshala

Published: 19-03-2019 08:35

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