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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
03KATHMANDU715 2003-04-21 06:51:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Kathmandu
Cable title:  

NEPAL: 21 TIBETANS DETAINED ON IMMIGRATION CHARGES

Tags:   PREF PHUM NP CH 
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					  C O N F I D E N T I A L KATHMANDU 000715 

SIPDIS

STATE FOR SA/INS
LONDON FOR POL/GURNEY
GENEVA FOR RMA

E.O. 12958: DECL: 04/20/2013
TAGS: PREF PHUM NP CH
SUBJECT: NEPAL: 21 TIBETANS DETAINED ON IMMIGRATION CHARGES

Classified By: DCM Robert K. Boggs for reasons 1.5 (b,d)



1. (C) Summary: Twenty-one Tibetan refugees, including
eleven minors, were detained by Nepal's Department of
Immigration (DOI) on April 15. In an apparent toughening of
rhetoric, the Home Secretary was "quite adamant" in an April
17 meeting with Office of Tibet Representative Wangchuk
Tsering that the group would be returned to China. However,

SIPDIS
eighteen of the refugees have been fined, and will be
required to serve jail terms ranging from three to ten months
if they cannot pay. The three youngest refugees (six to nine
years of age) will be released into the custody of UNHCR.
The GON has not informed UNHCR of any change in policy toward
Tibetans, but the latest arrests are part of a series of
incidents that violate the unwritten "gentleman's agreement"
governing the travel of Tibetans through Nepal to India.
Tibetan leaders have blamed the less tolerant attitude of the
Nepal Government on growing pressure from Beijing. End
summary.



2. (U) A group of twenty-one Tibetan refugees, including
eleven minors, was arrested by GON authorities near Kathmandu
on April 15. The undocumented refugees crossed into Nepal on
foot via Nangpa-La (a 17,000-foot pass in the Everest region)
then took a bus to the capital. They were arrested at the
Thankot police checkpoint, about 10 miles from Kathmandu, and
immediately handed over to the Department of Immigration.
Eighteen members of the group have been jailed, pending
payment of approximately 100 USD each in fines and visa fees.
Failing payment, the refugees will be required to serve a
prison term of 10 months. (Note: One thirteen-year-old boy
was given a half-fine, reducing his total required payment to
70 USD and his total possible prison term to 3 months. End
note.) The three youngest members of the group (two
six-year-olds and a nine-year-old) will be released into
UNHCR custody. Their parents were not among those detained.



3. (C) Office of Tibet Representative Wangchuk Tsering told
PolOff on April 17 that the Home Secretary had been "quite
adamant" that the refugees would be returned to China,
despite an informal agreement with UNHCR to allow Tibetans to
transit to India. According to Tsering, the Home Secretary
claimed that "thousands" of Tibetans would flood the country
if the current UNHCR-administered process were allowed to
continue.



4. (C) UNHCR Protection Officer Giulia Ranawat said that her
office was pursuing the matter, and would seek a
clarification of the GON's current policy toward Tibetans
traveling to India. "We have not received any notification
from the government of any change in policy, but they seem to
be arresting and fining people quite frequently," she said.
"We will be pressing them to find out if the procedure has
changed." Ranawat indicated that UNHCR had not yet been
granted the opportunity to interview the refugees to
determine if they are persons of concern, but said that her
office had "valid reasons to assume" that they would be.



5. (C) Comment: The Home Secretary's concern about
"thousands" of Tibetans flooding Nepal on their way to the
UNHCR Reception Center is specious. The number of refugees
processed by UNHCR has declined in the past few years to
under 1500 per annum, and those who do enter Nepal are
escorted out to India, primarily for free schooling in
Dharamsala. The system has worked well for thirteen years,
but Tibetan leaders have reported increased pressure by the
Chinese Government on Nepal to crack down on Tibetan
immigrants. Post will continue to work with UNHCR and the
Office of Tibet to determine if the so-called "gentleman's
agreement" has been abandoned by the GON, and what the
ramifications of such a decision would be for Tibetans, who
will likely continue to seek a way to join the Tibetan
community in India whether a protective agreement is in place
or not.

MALINOWSKI