A report issued by Asia News gives a misleading impression on the issue of Tibetan refugees in Nepal. Asia News cited Shes Narayan Poudel, chief of the National Commission for the Coordination of refugees, in Kathmandu saying that: “We have decided to no longer provide identity cards to Tibetan refugees. If we continue to recognize them as such, we will face new waves of immigration. And we have no more space.”

ICT has been able to confirm that there is no change in policy in Nepal with regard to Tibetan status in Nepal. The agreement with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees on the transit of Tibetan new arrivals through Nepal still holds, although the number of Tibetans escaping into exile has plummeted this year, in the context of a steady decline each year since China’s crackdown in Tibet deepened in 2008. Under pressure from China, Nepal stopped issuing or renewing refugee identification cards in 1994 to the long-staying Tibetan community in Nepal.

The report in Asia News coincides with a visit of the Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, Lobsang Gyaltsen (Chinese: Luosang Jiangcun), who announced an additional 20 million yuan annual aid to Nepal this week (Setopati, NC, TAR delegation discuss various issues).

There is a fundamental need for documentation – whether refugee identification or citizenship – for Tibetans in Nepal. The status quo means that large numbers of bona fide Tibetan refugees in Nepal, including all those born after 1978, are effectively stateless, vulnerable to political exploitation, and unable to partake in state services or travel without threat of harassment, extortion or detention.

The international community in Nepal has been engaged in seeking to support Tibetans on the issue of statelessness. The International Campaign for Tibet believes that granting status to Tibetans – a legitimate community with profound cultural and historic ties across the Himalayas – would be a positive assertion of Nepal’s sovereign interests and integrity, and beneficial to Nepal’s long-term stability. (ICT report, ‘Dangerous Crossing’)