20-26 June 2014 #712

State of statelessness

Jan Møller Hansen

Text: Sunir Pandey

Photographs: Jan Møller Hansen

It is well known that Nepal is home to thousands of refugees from Bhutan and Tibet, but what goes unnoticed is the growing number of asylum seekers from trouble spots around the world.

Many from Somalia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Burma and Iraq arrive here in the hope that the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) will facilitate third-country resettlement, or they are duped by human traffickers who bring them to Nepal with the promise of flying them to Europe from Kathmandu airport on forged documents.

UNHCR is taking care of at least 500 ‘urban refugees’, but the actual number is probably much higher. Nepal denies on-arrival visas to 11 countries, but many cross the open border from India. The Nepal government treats them as illegal migrants and they amass fines of $6 a day for overstaying. There are only three exit strategies for urban refugees: repatriation to the home country, third-country resettlement or integration in Nepal. 

Hover over any country or click on the legend box for the statistics. Source: UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR)

Nepal has not signed the 1951 UN convention on refugees that would ensure legal and economic rights to those forced to flee their homelands, and the government is keen to discourage UNHCR from recognising and supporting more refugees for fear that Nepal could turn into a hub for human trafficking. 

On World Refugee Day on 20 June, UNHCR presents a ten-day photo exhibition, Refugee Stories, with documentary film screenings and talk programs at the City Museum in Darbar Marg. Some of the images of refugees from Tibet, Burma, Pakistan, and Somalia who live in Kathmandu by Jan Møller Hansen featured here will be on display. 

Refugee Stories

20-30 June

City Museum

Darbar Marg, Kathmandu



A Pakistani refugee attending school in Kathmandu.

Somali refugee family living in Kathmandu.

A Pakistani refugee from the Amadiyaa community.

A refugee from the Chin community in Myanmar.

Tibetan refugee students perform a Tibetan dance at a school in Kathmandu.

These three students belong to the third generation of Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

Namgyal Dolma is 100-years-old. Four generations of her family has lived in Kathmandu.

This brother and sister live with their family in Kathmandu. They belong to the Chin community from Myanmar.

Two Myanmar refugees live with their mother in a suburb of Kathmandu.

A refugee boy from Pakistan holds a sign asking the government to remove the 40,000 USD fine that his family has to pay to leave Nepal for America.

Online production: Ayesha Shakya

Read also:

Refugees-in-waiting Gopal Gartaula

Axis of despair, Kunda Dixit

Debimaya’s daughter Gopal Gartaula

Huddled masses, waiting to rejoin families Gopal Gartaula

Those who want to stay Gopal Gartaula

Gross National Shame Anurag Acharya

No refuge when refugees leave Marcus Benigno

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