Legal Status of Tibetans in Nepal

Declaring itself as non-signatory to the International Conventions on refugees, thus not legally binding to the refugees issues, Nepal doesn’t have any refugee law and policy. But Nepal has allowed Tibetan refugees to live in Nepal. Nepal says it has allowed Tibetans to live in Nepal on humanitarian grounds. Accordingly, they have given lands for settlements (approximately 13 Tibetan settlements) and have given RC to the Tibetans in Nepal.

The Tibetan refugees come under the jurisdiction of the Home Ministry. The Ministry’s website ( doesn’t have any information about the Tibetan refugees. This report: ( in Nepal’s daily newspaper Republica on 18 February 2013 tells more about the situation of Tibetans in Nepal.

Registration Certificate (stay permit) rules

Administration of Tibetan refugees in Nepal is not kind and systematic like India. Even the Nepal government doesn’t have exact figures of the Tibetan population. Among the Tibetans living in Nepal, one section has got RC (Registration Certificate or the stay permit) and the rest don’t as the Nepal government stopped issuing RC without any explanation. The decision was taken probably in the early 90s, when the Nepal government saidthat only those Tibetans who had arrived in Nepal before 1989 would be considered as refugees, and that they wouldn’t accept any more Tibetan refugees in Nepal.

Fearing the deportation of new arrivals from Tibet, UNHCR stepped in, requesting Nepal to hand over these escaping refugees to them with the assurance of facilitating these refugees to a third country (India). This verbal agreement came to be known as a “Gentleman’s agreement” between the two sides, which was largely followed except on couple of incidents like the deportation of 18 Tibetans back to Tibet in May 2003.

After 1989, the Nepal government stopped issuing any new RC to Tibetans, not even to those newborn with parents having RC. All the children born in Nepal after 1989 are without any legal document, and with a very uncertain future. Students attending Tibetan schools don’t face any problem until class 12. After graduating from school then they face all kinds of problems whenever a legal document is required. For college admission, opening a new bank account, making a driving license, travelling abroad, etc. Every possibility is closed for them.

Tibetan settlements in Nepal

There are about 20 Tibetan settlements in Nepal. Some of them are with population of a thousand or so, and some have only a few hundred people. There are even smaller ones with just a few families, mostly in remote areas of Nepal. Population is decreasing drastically due to increase in migration to the West and also due to the falling birth rate among Tibetans. According to a 2009 population census by CTA, Tibetan population in Nepal is actually around 13 thousand, while the often-quoted figure is 20 thousand.

Settlements in Nepal

Information at

Tibetan Refugee Welfare Office

Gaden Khangsar P.O. Box No. 310 Lazimpat
p: +977-1-4419903, 4423166 Fax: +977-1-4411660

This page was posted on 14 April 2013; updated 3 September 2013.

Google ad