KATHMANDU, May 4: The government has decided to provide exit permits to 36 nationals of various countries staying in Nepal as ´urban refugees´ to facilitate their third country resettlement.
The Home Ministry decided to grant the exit permits to the ´urban refugees´ after the Finance Ministry gave its consent to waiver of visa fees and penalty slapped on them. The ´urban refugees´ getting exit permits have received acceptance letters from the host countries for resettlement, officials said.
Talking to Republica, Home Ministry Spokesperson Shankar Koirala said the cabinet has already taken a decision to provide exit permits to 36 ´urban refugees´, who have received letters of acceptance from host countries. "As a one-time provision, we plan to provide exit permits to all the urban refugees currently living in Nepal if they are able to secure letters of acceptance from host countries," he said.
According to official statistics, some 272 people indentified as ´urban refugees´ are currently living in Nepal. Earlier, the Home Ministry had taken a decision to allow their resettlement as prolonging their stay in Nepal would only complicate matters.
The Nepal government does not recognize the status of foreigners other than Bhutanese and Tibetans who arrived in Nepal as refugees before 1990. The government has had strong reservations over what it calls UNHCR´s "unilateral" recognition of other foreigners sheltering in Nepal as ´urban refugees´.
UNHCR recognizes refugees living in urban areas of Nepal as urban refugees, regardless of their country of origin. Those recognized by UNHCR as ´urban refugees´ in Nepal belong to various countries including Somalia, Pakistan, Nigeria, Sudan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. They have been staying in Nepal for years as the government refused to issue them exit permits, labeling them "illegal immigrants".
Nepal stopped providing on-arrival visas to the nationals of Nigeria, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Cameroon, Somalia, Liberia, Ethiopia, Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan a few years ago in view of the increasing trend of nationals from these countries seeking shelter as ´urban refugees´ mainly with the intention of making their way to North American and Europe through third country resettlement.