February 21, 2012
The Nepalese government is yet to respond to a December 2011 letter written by three members of the U.S. House of Representatives pushing for the implementation of a stalled Tibetan refugee resettlement program to the US.
The letters dated December 9, 2011 were addressed to the President and Prime Minister of Nepal, and were written by Representatives James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), co-chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, and Representative Joe Pitts (R-PA), a member of its Executive Committee.
The letters posted on the Commission’s website last week had prominently asked for the rights of Tibetan refugees in Nepal to be protected, and urged the Nepalese government that it assent to resettling Tibetan refugees in the United States.
“We write to express our deep concern over Nepal’s lack of a comprehensive law, delays in the transit of Tibetan refugees through Nepal, and the failure to work with the US government to implement a programme that would allow the resettlement of Tibetan refugees in the United States,” the Representatives wrote.
“We urge your government to grant exit visas to Tibetan refugees to enable them to resettle in other countries.”
The letter reaffirmed the US State Department’s commitment of resettling Tibetan refugees from Nepal, a program first proposed by former US President George W. Bush in 2005.
The program has since hit a roadblock following the Nepalese government’s failure to cooperate with the US.
“We urge the Nepalese government to review its policies regarding the resettlement of Tibetan refugees in light of its international human rights obligations,” the Commission members said.
“We believe that Nepal’s long-term interest will be best served by upholding its stated commitment to human rights, particularly with respect to giving Tibetan refugees visas to leave Nepal.”
The letter also urged the Nepalese government to ensure continued support for the “Gentleman’s Agreement” which provides for the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through Nepal.
Many Tibetan refugees in Nepal have not been granted legal documentation by the Nepalese government, limiting their ability to work, own property and send their children to school.
Acting under Chinese pressure, Nepal has increased border patrolling to prevent Tibetan refugees from entering their soil and even repatriated escaping Tibetan refugees.
The Commission’s inquest apparently came as a response to a November 2011 hearing with Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay, where he testified on the Central Tibetan Administration’s assessment of the challenges facing Tibetan refugees in Nepal.
Representative Frank Wolf, who also sits on the House Appropriations Committee that determines US funding, while speaking to reporters November last, had warned the Nepalese government that he would try to block funding to Nepal unless it grants exit visas to Tibetans who seek refuge in the United States.
“We’re not just going to cut them, we’re going to zero them out,” Wolf was quoted as saying.
“If they’re not willing to do it, then they don’t share our values and if they don’t share our values, we do not want to share our dollars.”