Nepali gov't slams UNHCR on urban refugees

News and Press Release
Originally published
KATHMANDU, Jun 20, 2007 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Nepali home ministry spokesperson Tuesday said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Office in Nepal has no right to provide protection to about 400 refugees and asylum seekers under its urban refugee program, local newspaper The Kathmandu Post reported on Wednesday.

Home Ministry Spokesperson Baman Prasad Neupane said, "The UNHCR should not treat these people in such a way by producing refugee and asylum seeker certificates unilaterally."

He said whosoever was taking shelter under the urban refugee program of the UNHCR would be treated as illegal immigrant as per the immigration law, not as refugees or asylum seekers because Nepal is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and its protocol and it has no refugee law as well.

Abraham Abraham, representative of UNHCR Nepal, claimed that UNHCR as a UN agency would never do anything illegal.

"Naturally, who personally arrives in a country is forced to abide by the law of the country," he said.

Abraham suggested Nepal either become a signatory to the protocol or formulate legislation on the treatment of refugees because it is important to distinguish refugees from other people who may be either travelers, tourists or migrants.

At present, about 400 refugees and asylum seekers from different continents have been taking shelter under the protection of UNHCR. Out of them, over 50 urban refugees, who were accepted by the U.S. government for resettlement in America in September 2006, had applied at Nepali home ministry seeking exit permit. But officials at the Department of Immigration, Home Ministry and Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that Nepal cannot provide such a document in the absence of a refugee policy.