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US State Department official to assess Tibetan refugee during Nepal visit

August 21, 2010

By Phurbu Thinley
Phayul
August 19, 2010

Dharamsala, Aug. 19 -- A senior US State
Department official is in Nepal on a 3-day visit
that would, among others, focus on assessment of
the international and Nepali government's efforts
to support Tibetan refugees residing in Nepal, a
press release issued by the US embassy in Nepal said.

Mr Atul Keshap, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary
of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, arrived in Kathmandu on Tuesday.

This is Mr Keshap's first visit to Nepal since
becoming the Director of the Office of India,
Nepal, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan, and
Maldives Affairs at the Department of State,
where he manages foreign policy coordination for
the six countries, the statement said.

During this familiarization tour, he will meet
with government officials to discuss a range of bilateral issues.

He will also look at international and Nepali
efforts to support Bhutanese and Tibetan refugees
in Nepal, the press release said.

Atul's visit follows Nepal's deportation of three
fleeing Tibetan refugees to Tibet recently.

In June Nepal handed over three Tibetan refugees
over to Chinese authorities in Tibet, a move that
sparked international condemnation.

The move left the UN refugee agency in Kathmandu feeling "extremely concerned".

Two of the repatriated refugees - a young woman
and a monk - are reportedly serving six-month prison terms in Tibet.

Nepal has traditionally given safe passage to
fleeing Tibetan refugees under an informal
agreement between the government and the UN refugee agency.

The "Gentlemen's Agreement" between the
government of Nepal and the UN High Commissioner
for Refugees (UNHCR), put in place in 1989, when
Nepal stopped giving them refugee status,
provides for the safe transit of Tibetan refugees
through Nepalese territory and onward to India.

Nepal government has lately vowed to check
"anti-China activities" to strengthen friendly
ties with China, a major donor for the impoverished country.

Past estimates suggest between 2,500 and 3,000
Tibetans escape Tibet and enter Nepal each year
on their way to the seat of Tibetan
Government-in-Exile here in north India. The
number has slowed down dramatically since 2008
after Nepal beefed up security along its border
with Tibet following 'Chinese pressure'.

In the past there there had been arrests of
Tibetan refugees from various border districts of
Nepal but they were ultimately handed over to the
UN refugee agency after being kept in police custody for some time.

Over the last couple of years, under growing
Chinese influence, Nepal has routinely tightened
security along its border with Tibet, resulting
in more arrests of fleeing Tibetan refugees.

Following the "massive" anti-China unrest in
Tibet in 2008, China has been sending a flurry of
high-level official delegations to Nepal to
ensure it effectively curbs "Free-Tibet
activities” on its soil. In return China promises
to increase assistance to the crisis-ridden country.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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