Nepali Times
Editorial
Yearning to be free


Even though Nepal was itself wracked by years of war, it has provided safe haven for people fleeing conflict in other countries.

As Nepalis stream into India in search of work, there is a flow of economic migrants from northern India in the other direction. The six members of a single family who were killed in a tragic hit-and-run at Bhotahiti the other night were Biharis who worked here.

Tens of thousands of refugees from Tibet fled persecution to settle in Nepal in the late 1950s. In later years, refugees from strife in Kashmir, Afghanistan and even Somalia have come to Nepal.

Since 1991, Nepal has provided refuge to 110,000 Lhotsampa refugees driven out of Bhutan and the United Nations has been taking care of them in Jhapa and Morang for the past 18 years.

When it looked like India's backing for the Bhutan regime would make it impossible to facilitate their return home, the refugees were repatriated to third countries. This let Thimphu off the hook for ethnic cleansing of its country, but the resettlement was justified on humanitarian grounds. More than 10,000 refugees from Bhutan have so far been resettled in the United States, Denmark, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada in the past two years.

On 1 August, democracy and human rights activist Ratan Gazmere was detained at Kathmandu airport when he and his wife returned to Nepal for a family visit. The Gazmeres (refugees from Bhutan themselves) were resettled in Adelaide earlier this year and were traveling on refugee documents since they don't yet have Australian passports. Immigration officials in Kathmandu refused them visas.

The Gazmeres physically resisted deportation and were later manhandled by airport police. They were then detained in a windowless room for two days and another day at a cell in Gaushala police station. It was only after Nepali human rights activists lobbied for their release that the Gazmeres were given a two-week visa on 4 August.

Home Minister Bhim Rawal needs to be commended for making a humanitarian exception in this case, but the shabby treatment meted to the Gazmeres seriously besmirched Nepal's image as a haven for the huddled masses yearning to be free.

The episode also highlights the need to change the rule about not issuing visas to refugees traveling on titre de voyage.

In the next five years there will be 80,000 Bhutani refugees resettled in other countries who will be visiting family here and who, like the Gazmeres, will not yet have passports of their new countries.

Other countries allow visas on such travel documents, it is time Nepal did the same.



LATEST ISSUE
638
(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)


ADVERTISEMENT









himalkhabar.com            

NEPALI TIMES IS A PUBLICATION OF HIMALMEDIA PRIVATE LIMITED | ABOUT US | ADVERTISE | SUBSCRIPTION | PRIVACY POLICY | TERMS OF USE | CONTACT