Fighting with struggle and identity, Tibetan refugees in Nepal are in a situation of anonymity. Spread in more than 11 Tibetan refugee settlements in different parts of Nepal, Tibetan Refugees have not been able to find their legal status in here in Nepal. Under normal circumstances, most pre-1990 arrivals, qualifying as bona fide refugees, should have been documented and given refugee cards (RCs) by the government, allowing them the right to live and work in the country, as well as access to basic services.
Pema Dorjee, one of the Tibetan refugee who was born in Nepal said,” we have been living here with no official papers our homes are limited within the refugee center beyond that we don’t have no identity. we need official papers and documentation which is our rights.”
Currently Nepal homes to more than 20,000 Tibetan refugees who fled after the uprising of the Chinese government over Tibet in 1959. Each year hundreds continue to transit through Nepal to India, home of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), there are an estimated 15,000 long-staying Tibetan refugees who arrived in Nepal prior to 1990, of whom more than half lack any form of documentation, preventing them from getting regular access to education and legal employment. UNHCR continues to advocate for the issuance of documentation to long-staying Tibetans.
According to the Government of Nepal, Tibetans entering Nepal after 1989 do not have permission to stay as legal refugees within Nepal, nor does the law protect their human rights. However, the principle of non-refoulement, laid out in 1954 in the UN-Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, provides in Article 33(1) that:”No Contracting State shall expel or return (‘refouler’) a refugee in any manner whatsoever to the frontiers of territories where his life or freedom would be threatened on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”