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Nepal Arrests Six Tibetan Refugees

  • VOA News

Nepal arrested a group of six Tibetan refugees who escaped into northern Nepal from Tibet at around midnight on Sunday from Sindhupalchowk district.

The Nepalese police said the the four men and two women were arrested for travelling without any travel documents. The group was handed over to immigration authorities for investigation and necessary action, they said.

The arrest comes less than a fortnight after a set of Wikileaks revealed that China could have rewarded Nepal security officials to arrest Tibetans attempting to enter Nepal.

“Chinese government rewards (Nepali forces) by providing financial incentives to officers who hand over Tibetans attempting to exit China,” the confidential diplomatic cable created by the US embassy in New Delhi on February 22 quoted an unnamed source as saying.

Nepal and Tibet have a common border of 1,414 km with 34 major passes between the two. Each year, thousands of Tibetans refugees try to cross over, both via road and the snow-clad passes, facing grave threats to their lives.

They have previously been given safe passage through Nepal under an informal agreement between the government and the UN refugee agency put in place in 1989, when Nepal stopped giving them refugee status. They are then given UN assistance to travel on to India, where the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama lives in exile.

However the number of the Tibetan refugees escaping from Nepal has decreased in the recent years following China’s growing influence in Nepal. Since 2008, Nepal has hardened its stance on the Tibetan refugees, a trend observed in the Himalayan country’s increasing ties with China.

Nepal's major parties adhere to the 'One China' policy, regarding Tibet as an integral part of China and keeping Tibetan refugees in Nepal on a tight leash.

Tibet support groups have criticized Nepal's violation of actions that run counter to established procedure under the "Gentlemen's Agreement" which assumes cooperation among Nepalese police and government officials with the UNHCR in providing for the safe transit of Tibetan refugees through Nepal and onward to India.

Approximately 2,500 Tibetan refugees escape into exile annually, travelling through Nepal en route to Dharamsala in northern India where their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile are based. However the number of the Tibetan refugees escaping from Nepal has decreased in the recent years following China’s growing influence in Nepal.

Some information for this report was provided by Guardian, Hindustan Times and AFP.

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