Tuesday, June 20, 2006

UNHCR unhappy with Nepal

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed dissatisfaction with Nepal for turning a deaf ear to its repeated appeals for third country resettlement of Bhutanese refugees, who have been sheltering under the protection of UNHCR since 1990.

The UNHCR Global Report 2005, published on the occasion of World Refugee Day that falls on June 20, said the possibility of resettlement to a third country was another encouraging sign, besides the active engagement of both the governments of Nepal and Bhutan in finding solutions for refugees in Nepal. "However, Nepal insists that repatriation to Bhutan must begin before other solutions are considered. For this reason, despite UNHCR's repeated appeals, Nepal has not yet approved re-registration nor permitted the departure of refugees with special needs for resettlement," the report said.

However, Acting Secretary at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Pradip Khatiwada, said, "Nepal has no headache for such proposal if any foreign country wants to take our burden of over 100,000 Bhutanese refugees with certain policy and time frame."

On Friday, Resident Representative of UNHCR, Abraham Abraham, said that approximately 10,000 to 12,000 physically and mentally sound refugees, could be resettled in a third country annually if there was no possibility of repatriation or local integration.

Regarding the request for re-registration of refugees, another government official said that the new government could resume that process after modifying certain provisions.

The UNHCR has also criticized the government for not issuing birth certificates to refugee children and slow pace in providing identification documents to other immigrants, including nearly 20,000 Tibetans who arrived before 1990.

A Home Ministry official said that there was no legal provision of providing birth certificates to foreigners. "However, Local Development Ministry has recently sent a positive proposal to home and law ministries to take necessary decision in this regard," he informed.

Regarding the identification documents of Tibetans, he said that the report was baseless. The government had provided identification documents for those Tibetans, who arrived in Nepal before December 1989. Since 1990, the government decided to stop this as it was a never-ending process, he added.

The UNHCR has also said the government decision on suspending exit permits and other travel documents since October 2005, led to an increase in number of Tibetans transiting through Nepal and prolonged stay at the Tibetan reception center. The government resumed issuing travel documents and exit permits for Tibetans last month. According to the report, the UNHCR has been providing necessary support for the Bhutanese refugees, over 4,000 newly-arrived Tibetans and 280 urban refugees and asylum seekers from various countries. There are about 200 Pakistani refugees in Nepal, according to the UNHCR report.

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