Berkeley, CA – Thousands of Tibetan refugees fleeing persecution in Chinese-occupied Tibet are facing an increasingly hostile reception in Nepal, being forced to pay bribes to ensure safe arrival in Nepal or are being forced back into Tibet where they may face detention, interrogation and torture, according to a report released August 23, 2002, by Tibet Justice Center.

The report, “Tibet’s Stateless Nationals: Tibetan Refugees in Nepal,” also describes the precarious existence for the 20,000 Tibetan refugees who fled Tibet before 1989. “Tibetans living in Nepal are in legal limbo,” said Dennis Cusack, President of Tibet Justice Center. “They remain stateless. Nepal does not recognize Tibetans as refugees or give them any legal status. Tibetans in Nepal cannot become citizens, own property, incorporate a business, or work or travel freely in Nepal. This situation must change.”

The Chinese Government has also used its growing influence in Nepal to insist that the Nepalese Government crack down, sometimes violently, on peaceful demonstrations by Tibetans in support of the Dalai Lama or of Tibetan freedom. “Chinese persecution does not stop at the border,” remarked Robert Sloane, who carried out the Center’s investigation with support from Yale Law School. “Beijing is now using its economic and political clout with intermediaries to continue to harass Tibetans who seek shelter elsewhere.”

The report highlights the breakdown of the gentlemen’s agreement between the Nepalese government and the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), through which, for more than a decade, Tibetan refugees have been escorted to the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre in Kathmandu and then transited through to exile settlements in India. The arrangement has been funded largely by the United States.

“This report is a call to action,” said Cusack. “The U.S. and Nepalese governments, as well as UNHCR, have an obligation to ensure the safety of the thousands of Tibetans who risk their lives in a desperate trek over the Himalayas to avoid persecution and find freedom in exile. The 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in Nepal are neither free nor safe when they remain stateless, effectively unprotected by any government.”

“Tibet’s Stateless Nationals” also has implications for Tibetans seeking political asylum in the United States. The U.S. often argues that Tibetans who are otherwise eligible for political asylum, but who lived for some time in Nepal, should be deemed to have found a safe haven–in Nepal. Such “firm resettlement” is a legal bar to political asylum. The report shows that the Tibetans’ stateless and precarious existence in Nepal is not the kind of safe haven that should prevent asylum in the U.S.

Tibet’s Stateless Nationals” is available on Tibet Justice Center’s website here »