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Nepal: Tibetan Refugee Center Shuttered

U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Should Press Nepal to Reopen Center

(London) -- The Nepalese government should allow the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office to reopen and continue assisting thousands of Tibetan refugees in Nepal, Human Rights Watch said today. The government shut down the refugee center on January 21.

The Refugee Welfare Office, which began operation after the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959, has helped to ensure the safety and well-being of tens of thousands of Tibetans crossing in Nepal, many of them on the way to India.

The reception center run by the organization currently shelters some 1,000 Tibetan refugees. There are nearly 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in various parts of Nepal.

Human Rights Watch said that as many as 3,000 Tibetans risk their lives annually, coming over the Himalayas into Nepal. Tibetans who arrive at the center often suffer from frostbite and other life-threatening medical conditions.

“The Refugee Welfare Office has been a critical safety net for tens of thousands of persecuted Tibetans,” said Brad Adams, Asia director for Human Rights Watch. “Closing the office leaves thousands of Tibetan refugees without crucial support.”

The government’s notice of closure said that the office was not properly registered under Nepali law. Nepali law does not give Tibetan refugees in Nepal the right to register associations or institutions in their name.

It is unclear how the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which has worked closely with the Tibetan Refugee Welfare office, can continue its activities in support of Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

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