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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Canadian parliament debates Tibetan immigration from Nepal

June 8, 2015

Canadian parliament debates Tibetan immigration from Nepal

Canada Tibet Committee, June 3, 2015 – The endemic nature of human rights abuse endured by Tibetans in Nepal has been well-documented.[i]  It would seem to follow that the Government of Nepal should welcome the departure of Tibetans from its country. This is not the case.  In fact, for more than a decade, Nepal has refused to issue exit permits to undocumented Tibetans who have been accepted for resettlement in other countries.

Last week, and in the wake of the massive earthquake that hit Nepal last month, one Canadian MP took up the issue in Canada’s parliament.  Member of Parliament Peggy Nash (Parkdale – High Park, ON) rose in the House of Commons and asked:  

“Mr. Speaker, Tibetans in my community are worried about their loved ones following the devastating earthquake in Nepal. They are concerned that their families, even those who qualify for expedited family reunification, might not get to Canada, because as refugees, many do not have the necessary travel documents. Tibetan refugees in Nepal are facing exceptional and urgent circumstances. What will the minister do to cut through the red tape and help reunite these families?”

Responding on behalf of the Government of Canada, Minister of Citizenship and Immigration the Hon. Chris Alexander, responded:

“Mr. Speaker, we continue to be very concerned about the situation in Nepal, about reuniting families affected by the disaster there, and about Tibetan populations facing hardship at home, in Nepal, and in India. That is why, thanks to an initiative of my predecessor, we have committed ourselves to the largest resettlement program of Tibetan refugees in Canadian history.  I was pleased to organize an information session very recently in that member's riding to help resolve these issues of documentation.”[ii]

There are approximately 20,000 Tibetan refugees currently settled in Nepal including many who were born there.[iii]  Of these 20,000, those who fled Tibet before December 31, 1989 were accorded informal rights to remain in Nepal and were issued “registration certificates” (RCs).  Those who fled Tibet after 1990 are not permitted to settle in Nepal but may transit to India with the assistance of the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). 


There is also a group of approximately 4600 Tibetans who live in Nepal but have fallen through the administrative cracks.  This group is comprised partly of young men and women who were born in Nepal to refugee parents, and partly of arrivals from Tibet since 1990 who have not been processed by the UNHCR for transit to India for a variety of reasons. They survive without any legal status whatsoever, in a state of perpetual limbo. 


Nepal is not a party to the UN’s 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees.



[i] For example, see: See Under China’s Shadow: Mistreatment of Tibetans in Nepal, Human Rights Watch, 2014

[ii] Information about Canada’s immigration program for Tibetans can be found here:

[iii] This number is provided by the Tibetan administration. Nepali officials however, estimate the number of Tibetans living in Nepal to be significantly higher. 

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