Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 November 2017, 17:20 GMT

U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Nepal

Publisher United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants
Publication Date 14 June 2006
Cite as United States Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants World Refugee Survey 2006 - Nepal , 14 June 2006, available at: [accessed 23 November 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Refoulement/Physical Protection

There were no reports of refoulement. Nepal hosted more than 100,000 refugees from Bhutan, who arrived starting in 1991, in 7 camps administered by the office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in the east of the country. About 15,000 more lived outside of the camps. At year's end, about 1,000 Bhutanese asylum seekers were waiting to undergo the Government's refugee determination process.

The Government also recognized some 20,000 Tibetans as refugees between 1959 and 1989. It did not permit new Tibetan arrivals to seek asylum, however, and fined and detained them. Through most of the year Nepal allowed Tibetans to travel on to India, but stopped permitting this in November. Before Nepal closed the border, 3,400 Tibetans registered with UNHCR and almost all traveled on to India.

Nepal was not party to 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. In 1993, however, it did adopt an internal directive for refugee status determination for Bhutanese asylum seekers called "Modus Operandi of the Screening Operation Post for Asylum-seekers from Bhutan at Kakarbhitta." The Government respected UNHCR's grant of refugee status under its mandate to 300 refugees in urban areas mainly from Pakistan and also from other countries such as Iraq, Liberia, Myanmar, and Sudan.

In 1986, Nepal and China agreed to tighten control of movement across the border, but neither side consistently enforced the restrictions. The Government permitted UNHCR to visit the Nepal-China border four times during the year.

Bhutanese refugee camps lacked police since 2003 and refugee watch teams reported sexual, gender-based, and other violence. Security forces, Maoist insurgents, and criminal gangs posing as either, robbed and extorted new Tibetan arrivals.

Detention/Access to Courts

The Government arrested, detained, and charged about two dozen Tibetan new arrivals with immigration violations during the year. The authorities released all concerned to UNHCR after anonymous donors paid their fines and penalties. At year's end, there were no reports of detained Tibetans because of immigration violations. There were no reports of the Government detaining Bhutanese refugees or asylum seekers for illegal entry, presence, or employment.

UNHCR and partner organizations had access to all detained refugees and asylum seekers but refugees reported difficulty in obtaining bail.

Bhutanese refugees did not receive individual identity documents. The only documentation that refugees possessed for certifying their refugee status was family census cards, and authorities based registration information for Bhutanese refugees entirely on household information about the senior member of the household, usually male. The Government did not approve a plan UNHCR had submitted in 2004 for individual registration and identity documents.

Authorities issued refugee certificates to Tibetan refugees residing in Nepal prior to 1990, including their children. In March, UNHCR gave the Government a list of more than 4,000 Tibetans without documentation and requested that it issue them refugee cards. The Government confirmed its willingness to issue such cards to at least some of them, but did not do so. The Government did not permit children reaching the age of 16 to be listed on their parents' documents nor did it issue them their own. The documentation attested to their right to remain and travel in Nepal but not to work, to own property, or to register births, deaths, or marriages. UNHCR provided asylum seekers and refugees under its mandate in urban areas with certificates.

In general, Bhutanese refugees had access to courts, including for civil matters. There was no prosecution, however, of police accused of sexually molesting two Tibetan refugee girls in Lukla as reported in last year's Survey.

Freedom of Movement and Residence

The Government confined some 100,000 Bhutanese refugees to camps. Tibetan refugees, along with refugees and asylum seekers in urban areas, were free to travel outside camps subject to general security concerns within the national territory. Tibetan refugees were subject to fines and imprisonment if they failed to carry documentation or residence cards while traveling through Nepal. Camp rules prohibited any refugee from leaving the camps for more than a day without prior permission from camp authorities. Camp officials could issue passes valid for no more than a week.

In January, the Government closed both the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office and the Tibetan Refugee Reception Centre, which had registered new refugee arrivals from China and assisted them with passage to India.

In October, the Government stopped issuing international travel documents to Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees. Among those denied permits was Bhutanese refugee leader Tek Nath Rizal, who sought to travel to South Africa for an international conference. In November, the Government also stopped issuing exit permits to Tibetan refugees transiting to India.

Right to Earn a Livelihood

Nepal did not allow refugees, including Tibetans, to work legally regardless of status or length of stay. The Government prohibited refugees from operating businesses or holding title to cars, homes, or property. In addition, government-issued camp rules forbade Bhutanese refugees from engaging in any form of income generation.

Many refugees, including Bhutanese living outside of the camps, had to work illegally without any labor protection. Tibetan refugees operated small carpet-weaving businesses while Bhutanese had small cottage industries within the camps. The central Government tolerated many activities within the informal sector but required bribes, false documents, or Nepalese partners. Local authorities, however, were less tolerant and local populations clashed with Bhutanese camp residents over wage rates and local resources such as firewood, resulting in isolated instances of violence. Authorities shut down refugee soap-making enterprises when local producers, from whom UNHCR had earlier purchased soap, complained.

Bhutanese camp residents staged demonstrations and hunger strikes in December to protest UNHCR's switch from kerosene rations to bio-briquettes. While UNHCR made the switch because bio-briquettes were environmentally friendly, refugees protested because they could sell or trade kerosene to outsiders. Additionally, bio-briquettes were labor intensive to produce locally.

Public Relief and Education

UNHCR provided pre-primary and primary education up to grade 8 within Bhutanese refugee camps, while its implementing partners and Caritas provided education through grade 12. Most refugee children in urban areas received only informal education while some families enrolled their children in private schools, some with international aid.

UNHCR and the World Food Programme also provided medical services in all the Bhutanese camps and UNHCR aided a small number of refugees in urban areas. Tibetan communities outside of Nepal supported medical and education services for Tibetan refugee communities. Several hospitals doubled the fees for foreigners, with no exception for refugees, following the recommendation of the Medical Board of Tribhuvian University. The Government's refusal to register refugee self-help organizations made them vulnerable to forced closure at any time.

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