Statement On Tibetan Refugees in Nepal
Today the number of refugees and displaced persons in the world is higher than at any time since World War II. Desperate people fleeing war, persecution, and natural disasters have shined a spotlight on the enormous challenges confronting the international community.
We see it in Lebanon, where a quarter of the population is Syrian refugees. We see it in Bangladesh, where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees have fled in order to shield themselves from ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Burmese military.
And now we hear that Nepal is considering signing an extradition agreement with China that could expose Tibetans to forced removal to China. This agreement reportedly could be signed in conjunction with the upcoming visit of Chinese President Xi to Kathmandu.
I have been a strong supporter of Nepal’s transition to democracy, and I have voted for hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. assistance to help Nepal recover from the devastating earthquake in April 2015. A Vermont organization works to enable Nepalese suffering from glaucoma to regain their sight. Other
Vermonters served in the Peace Corps in Nepal. It is a country that countless Americans have a deep affection for.
The Government of Nepal deserves thanks for hosting Tibetan exiles and refugees over many decades, with the support of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the international community. By doing so, they have set an example that has saved many lives. But any refoulement of Tibetans to China would not only violate international law, it would cause significant damage to Nepal’s reputation and it would have a negative impact on U.S. – Nepalese relations.
In addition to strongly urging against such an agreement with China, I also urge the Government of Nepal to promptly issue travel documents to Tibetans wishing to depart for India – as it has done for years under the so-called “Gentlemen’s Agreement”. And it should resume registration of Tibetan refugees living in Nepal, many of whom were born in Nepal.
The safety of Tibetans is of great concern to the American people and to the Government of the United States. I, along with other Members of Congress, urge the Government of Nepal to reaffirm its long tradition of providing safe haven for Tibetans. The international community is watching, and stands ready to help Nepal fulfill this humanitarian responsibility.
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David Carle: 202-224-3693
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