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US Embassy in Nepal mentions ‘Tibetan Refugee’ in visa procedure

December 4, 2010

By Phurbu Thinley
Thursday, December 02, 2010

Dharamsala, Dec 2: The United States embassy in Kathmandu has started specifically mentioning 'Tibetan Refugee' in the documents while issuing visas to them, an online Nepaline news media cited the country's Kantipur Daily as reporting.

The report said the US embassy earlier used to 'Nepalese' in the citizenship section while issuing visas to Tibetans based on travel documents issued by the foreign ministry of Nepal.

The report also said the US embassy rectified the procedure after Nepal objected to its system of documenting Tibetan Refugees as Nepalese citizen.

Nepalese home minister Bhim Rawal had officially objected to the system and requested US government to rectify during the visit of an assistant secretary of state of US about three months ago, the report added.

According to the report, the foreign ministry in Nepal issues travel documents only to Tibetan Refugees, who have been officially registered as refugees, if they want to go abroad.

U.S. officials, however, say Nepal has effectively resisted allowing Tibetan refugees to re-settle in the United States, to avoid upsetting Nepal's relations with China.

In September 2005, the Tibetan Government announced about the US' plan to resettle a sizeable population of Tibetans from Nepal to USA as part of its refugee admissions program. But the plan could not be implemented due to non co-operation from Nepal Government in issuing travel documents required for Tibetans travel abroad.

Nepal government has lately vowed to check "anti-China activities" to strengthen friendly ties with China, a major donor for the impoverished country.

According to statistics, Nepal has more than 20,000 Tibetans refugees concentrated mainly in the Kathmandu valley and Pokhara in western Nepal.

The figure does not include Tibetans who arrived in the country after 1990 because the Nepalese government stopped registering them as refugees. Estimates also suggest between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans escape Tibet and enter Nepal each year after a perilous journey over the Himalayas on their way to Dharamsala, the seat of Tibetan Government-in-Exile in north India.

Nepal, which has accommodated Tibetan exiles for decades, has come under increasing pressure from China to crack down on the political protests in recent years.

Under Beijing's influence and lack of stable government in the impoverished nation, rights groups say Tibetans refugees in Nepal are increasingly vulnerable and at risk of arrest and repatriation.

In early June, Nepal handed over three fleeing Tibetan refugees to Chinese authorities in Tibet, prompting international condemnation.

Recently the governments of Nepal and China had even agreed to set up a joint mechanism to help share intelligence on "anti-China activities" in Nepal.

Just a month ago, Nepal police forcibly disrupted Tibetan elections by seizing several ballot boxes from at least two polling stations set up in the capital Kathmandu.
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