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Nepal to regularize Bhutanese refugees, Tibetans still in the lurch

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(, Mar06’22) – Nepal is to soon implement a decision to allow the remaining refugees from Bhutan to obtain permanent account number (PAN) cards, to do small-scale businesses, open bank accounts, and pursue higher education in the country. It will also register the few hitherto left out refugees from Bhutan. However, none of these decisions apply to Tibetans, reported the Mar 6.

The decision was taken two months ago and will be implemented during the upcoming process of renewing their refugee cards, the report said, citing multiple government officials familiar with the development. The refugee cards are stated to be renewed every five years.

After a total of 113,500 were resettled in the United States, Canada and other countries under a third country settlement programme, Nepal now has 6,365 refugees from Bhutan living in two camps at Beldangi and Sanischare of Jhapa district with refugee identification cards and 429 late comers who have been without it so far.

There are, however, no such plans at present to register Tibetan refugees and distribute identification cards to them, the report cited officials as saying.

The report noted that the process of registering and providing identification cards to Tibetan refugees was stopped in 1995.

The report put the population of Tibetan refugees in the country at 12,540. It was not clear whether this referred only to Tibetans with refugee identification cards. Other earlier reports have put the total number of Tibetan refugees, including without registration cards, living in Nepal at more than 20,000.

Nepal has always faced diplomatic and internal challenges while dealing with refugees from Bhutan and Tibet, the report said. Some diplomatic missions were stated to have been calling on Nepal to provide similar privileges to the Tibetan refugees as well.

The report cited a Home Ministry official as saying that since many of the Tibetan refugees were involved in businesses, they did not need such help although some may need the PAN card.

“Legally we are not allowed to do any business but there is no obstruction to doing small business. However, due to the lack of access, we are not allowed to operate large-scale businesses inside Nepal,” the report quoted a Tibetan refugee leader as saying.

The issue of Bhutanese refugees has almost settled because many of them have been resettled in third countries and almost all those in Nepal have obtained refugee cards but the plights of Tibetan and Rohingya refugees continue, Mahamunishwor Acharya, president of Nepal Human Rights Organization, has said.

Tibetans now constitute the bulk of the refugee population in Nepal. Apart from Bhutanese and Tibetan refugees, Nepal is also home to some urban refugees from Myanmar and those from as far as Nigeria, the report said.

Acharya, who is also fighting cases concerning refugees in different courts of Nepal, has said, “Tibetan and Rohingya refugees are living in very poor conditions. If someone seeks asylum, the government should ensure their safe and dignified stay in the country, as is the international practice. As a party to many international treaties and pacts on human rights, this is part of our obligations.”


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