About 105 Tibetans, at least ten suffering from severe frostbite, were arrested for illegal entry in West Nepal after fleing Tibet, a Nepali daily newspaper reported on 17 November.
The refugees entered Nepal via a little-used route from Manang (about 360 kilometres north-west of Kathmandu) while most Tibetan refugees use an eastward route along a mountain pass near Mount Everest.
The refugees were later released by the Nepalese authorities as a result of intervention by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
The UNHCR in Kathmandu will eventually process the arrivals’ onward travel, however it had been reported that others had already been returned by Nepali authorities to Tibet despite protests of Western governments and international standards regarding asylum-seekers.
Article 14 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.” Moreover, the Declaration on Territorial Asylum, adopted by the General Assembly in 1967, clearly states that no such person “shall be subjected to measures such as rejection at the frontier or, if he has already entered the territory in which he seeks asylum, expulsion or compulsory return to any State where he may be subjected to persecution” (article 3(1)).
Of serious concern is the possibility that deportees may face severe repercussions on their return to Tibet. Torture and ill-treatment by the Chinese authorities ae not uncommon punishments for fleeing. Nepal is a State Party to the Convention Against Torture and as such is legally bound by article 3(1) which clearly states: “No State Party shall expel, return (“refouler”) or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”
Under article 3(2) the Nepali authorities are required to take into account all relevant considerations in determining whether there are such grounds, including “the existence in the State concerned of a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights”.
It has been suggested that this recent wave of refugees fleeing to Nepal has been prompted by the latest religious crackdown -“Spiritual Civilisation”- by Chinese authorities.