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Nepal govt refutes UNHCR report on stateless

Publication Date : 04-10-2012


The Nepal government has refuted a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees ( UNHCR ) report which states that an estimated 800,000 Nepalis are stateless.

The government has expresed concern over the UN agency's claim of launching a community-based development programme (CBDP) at various Bhutanese refugee camps in eastern Nepal.

During a meeting at UNHCR headquarters in Geneva on Tuesday, Nepal's Ambassador to UN and other International Organisations, Shanker Bairagi, officially objected to the report's claim about Nepal's "stateless".

He claimed that Nepal and the UNCHR had never agreed to launch the CBDP, as mentioned by the UN agency's website.

In Kathmandu, the home and foreign ministries are separately preparing to summon Kathmandu-based UNCHR officials to lodge a complaint and request them to remove such "illusionary" documents from its domain.

"Stateless and not having citizenship are two different issues," said Arjun Bahadur Thapa, spokesperson at the ministry of foreign affairs (MoFA).

In 1995, the Nepal government had formed the Dhanapati Commission, which concluded that approximately 3.4 million Nepalis lacked citizenship certificates. Following the commission's report, a government taskforce distributed 2.6 million certificates in 2007. The estimate of 800,000 was arrived at by deducting 2.6 million from the original estimated figure of 3.4 million, said the UNHCR.

Defending the government's position, officials said that the government is committed to providing citizenship to every eligible candidate of 16 years.

"The word stateless is highly objectionable and we deny such a terminology in our case," said Shanker Koirala, spokesperson at the home ministry, who is also coordinator of the refugee issue at the ministry.

Officials of home and foreign ministries have also denied that an agreement had been made with UNHCR to conduct a CBDP.

The objective and motive behind conducting a CBDP is to locally integrate Bhutanese refugees in Nepal, which is not the government's policy, they said. "Reading between the lines, the motive is to assimilate the refugees in Nepal," said a foreign ministry official.

UNHCR claims that the CBDP is a multi-year programme, jointly prepared by the Nepal government, the UN country team, NGOs and other stakeholders, for refugees residing in Nepal.

However, an official at the UNHCR in Kathmandu said the Nepal government had only just endorsed the CBDP proposal.

"Our principal position is that voluntary repatriation of refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour is the only lasting solution to this problem. We have conveyed this to UNHCR on many occasions. We have provided shelter to Bhutanese refugees on humanitarian grounds despite the fact that Nepal is not a party to 1951 Refugee Convention and its additional protocols," said a senior Nepali diplomat currently serving at the UN.

"We have only received their proposal. Among their five segments, we have objected to running an income generation programme. On other issues like conducting programmes for education, health, environment and sanitation, we have sought comments from the concerned line ministries," said Koirala.


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