Refugees in Nepal
Nepal is home to 120,370 refugees officially recognized by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). Tibetan and Bhutanese refugees account for a large majority of Nepal’s refugee population.
Refugees from Bhutan
In the early 1990s, close to 106,000 Bhutanese refugees settled in seven U.N. supervised camps in eastern Nepal after being evicted from their homes in Bhutan when the government introduced a new law removing citizenship and civil rights due to ancestry. Without the right to work or own land in Nepal these refugees have been dependent on food aid from the United Nations.
After several failed discussions aimed at repatriating the refugees to Bhutan or Nepal, the refugees are now beginning to be relocated to other international destinations with the help of the UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration. Since the start of its Bhutanese refugee resettlement initiative in 2007 the UNHCR has relocated over 20,000 refugees. The United States accommodated 17,612 of these refugees, with the rest moving to Australia, Canada, Norway, New Zealand, Denmark, and The Netherlands.
The five Bhutanese refugee camps in Nepal are:
Refugees from Tibet
In the years 1959, 1960, and 1961 following the 1959 Tibetan uprising and exile of the Dalai Lama, over 20,000 Tibetans migrated to Nepal. Since then many have emigrated to India or settled in refugee camps set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the Government of Nepal, the Swiss Government, Services for Technical Co-operation Switzerland, and Australian Refugees Committee.
Those who arrived before 1989 were issued refugee ID cards and benefited from de facto economic integration; however, more recent arrivals have no legal status and cannot own property, businesses, vehicles, or be employed lawfully. Many of these recent arrivals transit through Nepal on their way to India.
- Choejor (Chorten & Jorpati)
- Delekling, Solukhumbu
- Dorpattan, Baglung
- Jampaling, Lodrik, Pokhara
- Namgyeling, Chirok, Mustang
- Paljorling, Lodrik, Pokhara
- Phakshing & Gyalsa
- Rasuwa, Dunche
- Samdupling, Jawalakhel
- Tashi Palkhiel, Pokhara
- Tashiling, Pokhara
Although Nepal is home to some 800,000 stateless residents, the exact number of refugees is uncertain because Nepal is not a signatory of the 1951 U.N. Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees that ensures the legal status and economic rights of refugees. Nepal’s National Unit for the Coordination of Refugee Affairs has requested that the UNHCR not recognize additional cases of urban refugees within its borders in an effort to prevent Nepal from becoming a safe haven for illegal immigrants. Among the 220 refugees already recognized are Pakistanis and Somalis, many of whom are victims of human trafficking.
- UNHCR Nepal Country Operations Profile
- Nepal: Bhutanese refugees find new life beyond the camps
- U.N. resumes full food aid to Bhutan refugees in Nepal
- Over 20,000 Bhutanese refugees resettled from Nepal
- Justice denied and rights denied: Tibetan refugees in Nepal
- Somali Refugees in Nepal: Stuck in the Waiting Room