700 illegals set for 3rd-country resettlement

Kathmandu, March 5

The government is preparing to grant exit permits to around 700 illegal immigrants for resettlement in third countries.

According to Secretary at the Ministry of Home Affairs Prem Kumar Rai, a proposal to grant exit permits to at least 167 illegal immigrants has already been forwarded to the Cabinet. “The ministry has forwarded the proposal at the request of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees,” Rai told THT.

Illegal immigrants include around 300 Rohingyas and around 400 African nationals, he added. “They will be resettled in third countries by the UNHCR,” Rai said, replying to a question of Nepal Communist Party (NCP) lawmaker Jhapat Rawal in today’s meeting of the State Affairs and Good Governance Committee.

The home ministry shall seek the consent of the finance ministry to waive visa fees and penalty slapped on illegal immigrants before tabling the proposal in the Cabinet. The Department of Immigration issues exit permits to immigrants once the Cabinet approves the home ministry’s proposal.

Rai said Rohingyas arrived in Nepal via India taking advantage of the porous border, while Africans arrived here on tourist visas. “Those immigrants are from around six-seven African countries,” Rai said, without disclosing the countries’ names. UNHCR officials could not be contacted despite repeated attempts by THT.

Tourists enter Nepal via Nepalgunj, Birgunj,Kakkarbhitta, Rasuwa, Bhairahawa, Belhiya, Dhangadi, Gadda Chauki and Tribhuvan International Airport.

According to Rai, the Rohingyas have been staying in Nepal for the past three years and the government has now tightened security at border points to curb their entry. “The number of Rohingyas has remained constant for the past year,” Rai said.

Rohingyas are Muslims predominantly from Rakhine state of Myanmar. But the Myanmar government has denied citizenship to Rohingyas since 1982, turning them into stateless people. Their flight from the home country intensified in 2017 when Rohingya militants launched deadly attacks on security forces of Myanmar. Some one million Rohingyas have fled from Myanmar and are staying in different countries, including 0.7 million in Bangladesh. Some of them have entered Nepal via open border with India after the 2017 violence. Some 650 Rohingyas are living in Nepal, as some of them entered Nepal in the 1990s and 2012.

The UNHCR has been supporting those illegal immigrants for their food, education and health. The UNHCR gives Rs 17,000 annually for their children’s education.

Nepal does not recognise immigrants from Myanmar, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Congo, Iran and Iraq who have been living in Nepal illegally. Nepal has recognised Bhutanese (6,656 remaining after resettlement) who entered from Kakkarbhitta in 1990 and Tibetans (24,500) who came to Nepal in 1959 as refugees. Most Bhutanese refugees have already been resettled in third countries.

The Nepal government had deported more than 600 foreigners from 63 countries in the last eight years for overstaying visa. According to the Department of Immigration, more than 1,400 foreigners have been fined for overstaying in Nepal in the last five years. The security forces say illegal immigrants were involved in drug trafficking, kidnapping, fraud, organised crime, dealing in fake currency, making fake passports, arms smuggling and prostitution.