Thursday, 17 February 2005
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 80: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations he has made to the Nepalese Government to protest against the closure of the offices of the Tibetan Government in Exile and the Tibetan refugee welfare office in Kathmandu in January 2005. [5532/05]
On 21 January 2005 the Government of Nepal ordered the closure of the offices of the Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office, TRWO, and the Office of the Dalai Lama. The Nepalese authorities have explained that the two offices are not legally registered and are, therefore, in violation of Nepalese law. The apparent difficulty in this regard is that Tibetan refugees do not have the right to register institutions under Nepalese law. On the other hand, the offices have been informally accepted in Nepal since 1959, when the first refugees started coming from Tibet. They look after the welfare of around 20,000 Tibetan refugees and since 1990 the TRWO has also acted as an implementing partner for the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.
On 27 January, EU Heads of Mission in Kathmandu used a prearranged meeting with the State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Prakash Sharan Mahat, to convey their concern about this development. They made the point that the closure of the offices would be detrimental to the welfare of many thousands of Tibetans living in Nepal and could also reflect on Nepal's international reputation. They encouraged the Government to reverse its decision and to either allow the offices to remain open informally or change the law to allow them to be registered. In reply, the State Minister gave assurances that Nepalese policy towards Tibetan refugees had not changed, and that the closure would have no effect on the cultural, religious or welfare activities of Tibetans in Nepal. He added that it would be open to Tibetans to open a new welfare office, and to register this office in the name of a Tibetan with Nepalese nationality.
As regards the situation in Nepal generally, the King has recently dismissed the Government and declared a state of emergency. As a result, EU Heads of Mission have been recalled to their capitals for consultations.