Following the May 31 forced deportation of 18 Tibetan refugees from Kathmandu by Nepalese authorities working in collusion with the Chinese Embassy, an international campaign of governmental and non-governmental approaches targeting the government of Nepal has resulted in Nepal’s official adoption of a new policy of protection for Tibetan refugees.
“This is a significant achievement for the Tibet movement and the rights of vulnerable Tibetan refugees,” said Mary Beth Markey, U.S. Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet.
“Safe transit through Nepal is the linchpin in the flight to freedom for Tibetans refugees,” Markey continued.
The policy was set forth as an attachment to an August 4 letter from Nepal’s Foreign Secretary Madhu Raman Acharya to Senator Dianne Feinstein (full text below) and follows the Senator’s withdrawal of support from legislation intended to provide Nepal with preferential treatment for its textile imports to the United States in protest over Nepal’s treatment of Tibetan refugees.
This articulation of the Nepalese policy has been shared with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the U.S. Embassy in Kathmandu.
Secretary Acharya headed a Nepalese trade delegation visit to Washington during the first week in August. The delegation met with Feinstein and other U.S. policy-makers in an effort to reinvigorate the stalled textile legislation. In response to concerns raised by policymakers, the delegation attempted to provide verbal assurances on Nepal’s treatment of Tibetan refugees. Senator Feinstein reportedly requested that such assurances be conveyed formally and followed up by consistent good practices.
“Friends of Tibet everywhere will be gratified to know that His Majesty’s government has adopted an official policy that tracks so well with the ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ developed with the UNHCR and Tibetan transit center in Kathmandu,” said Markey.
“However, only Nepal’s consistent implementation of the new policy – which must include the training of Nepalese police and officials according to its tenets — will demonstrate its commitment to the policy and to its proponents, including Senator Feinstein and others in the U.S. government,” Markey concluded.
Full text of Foreign Secretary Acharya’s letter to Senator Feintsein:
Her Excellency Dianne Feinstein
The US Capitol
August 4, 2003
I am writing to express my sincere gratitude for the opportunity to call on you at your office during my recent visit to Washington, DC. I appreciate your very sympathetic yet candid view with regard to the status of the bill you had introduced for the duty free and quota free access of the Nepalese readymade garments to the US market. I also appreciate your genuine concerns regarding the Tibetan refugees.
On behalf of His Majesty’s Government of Nepal, I would like to reiterate the continuation of Nepal’s policy with regard to the refugees in accordance with international norms, practices and standards. His majesty’s Government cooperates with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) for the verification, care and maintenance of refugees, and whatever applicable, for the processing of refugees to be resettled in a third country. You will appreciate that in the last thirteen years, the UNHCR itself has acknowledged that we have allowed them to process some 28,557 Tibetan refugees from Nepal to the third countries (UNHCR letter enclosed).
I have enclosed the policy recently adopted by His Majesty’s Government towards the refugees. With cooperation and understanding of the international community, His Majesty’s Government will endeavor to uphold these policies and principles in the treatment of the refugees. I hope this categorical statement of our position will help you facilitate to move ahead with the proposed bill in the Senate.
Once again, I would like to sincerely thank you for your willingness to continue to support the case of the legislation to grant duty free and quota free access to the Nepalese readymade garments to the US market, which will go a long way for the economic and political stability of Nepal.
Please accept, Honorable Senator, the assurances of my higher consideration.
Madhu Raman Acharya
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
His Majesty’s Government of Nepal
His Majesty’s Government of Nepal: Policy towards Refugees
- Nepal has a long track record of humanitarian approach to the refugees. It has provided asylum to refugees since 1959. At present, Nepal has given asylum to more than 132,000 refugees, which includes 100,000 Bhutanese and several thousand Tibetan refugees.
- Although not a party to any international refugee conventions and therefore not bound by international legal obligations as such, Nepal has given shelter to refugees on humanitarian grounds. In view of her own socio-economic constraints and other limitations, Nepal’s treatment of asylum seekers has earned appreciation from all over the world.
- Nepal understands and respects the humanitarian and human rights issues of the asylum seekers. The asylum seekers are treated in Nepal in accordance with international norms, practices and standards.
- Nepal fully cooperates with the UNHCR and allows the UNHCR in Kathmandu to assist the asylum seekers to be processed as refugees. Nepal appreciates the involvement of the UNHCR and the international community in the care and maintenance of the refugees in the country.
- Aliens, who declare their intention to seek asylum before the Nepalese authorities, are interrogated by the immigration authorities and the UNHCR is given access to them for their status determination. Such “persons of concern” are then processed accordingly through the UNHCR in accordance with the international norms and practices. His Majesty’s Government allows the processing of the refugees by the UNHCR for resettlement to any third country.
- Voluntariness has been an accepted principle for the treatment of refugees in Nepal. Only persons seeking voluntary return shall be repatriated in accordance with the international norms and practices. His Majesty’s Government has a policy not to forcibly return refugees from its soil.
- Nepal will uphold the principle of non-refoulement of the refugees. Nepal will not forcibly return any asylum seekers from its soil.
- Nepal will allow the UNHCR to verify and establish the status of people seeking asylum and will allow the UNHCR to process them without any hindrance.
(signed by Foreign Secretary Acharya)