The refugees will keep coming as there is a racket involved in transporting these people to different countries for money

Given its long open border with India, Nepal risks becoming a safe haven for refugees from different countries. Over the decades, Nepal has hosted refugees in the thousands from the Tibet Autonomous Region of China and Bhutan. Of late, Nepal is seeing an influx of Rohingya refugees, who have fled Myanmar to escape persecution by the state and atrocities there in recent years. Actually the Rohingyas from Rakhine state in Myanmar starting infiltrating into Nepal in the 1990s and in 2012 in a bid to seek asylum in Nepal. They entered via eastern Nepal after crossing Bangladeshi and Indian territory, and are settled temporarily in Kapan in Kathmandu and different places of the Tarai. And just this week, the Nepal Police arrested 11 Afghan nationals from Sinamangal in Kathmandu for entering the country illegally following the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan.

Nepal could be seeing more of them who are currently taking shelter in New Delhi.

Nepal is not a signatory of the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees and its 1967 Protocol.

Hence, Nepal considers the refugees as illegal immigrants and has no international obligation to provide them a host of fundamental rights, such as giving them access to courts, primary education, work and the provision for documentation, which includes a refugee travel document. Nepal also does not have a separate law on refugees either, although refugees from many countries, including Pakistan and Somalia, have found refuge here. Still, Nepal has been cooperating with the UN- HCR – the UN Refugee Agency – on humanitarian grounds, looking after their security and humanitarian aspects. The refugees are allowed to live here without fear of being deported. But when the government refuses to provide refugee status, it deprives them of the right to apply for a regular job or start a business to support the family. The coronavirus pandemic has only worsened their plight, with no income to pay for the rent of their house, children's education or treatment when someone in the family falls sick.

Obviously, Nepal is not in a position to support the refugees much financially or in other ways. Still the refugees will keep coming as there is a racket involved in transporting these desperate people over thousands of miles to different countries for a handsome sum of money. Hundreds of Rohingya refugees arrived here years ago thinking Nepal would be the promised land. Afghan refugees thought it would be easy to seek asylum here and the UNHCR would help them settle. Such illusions put them at risk of human trafficking, with Nepal becoming a transit point for illegal activities. The uncontrolled influx of refugees and their haphazard settlement could invite a lot of problems in the locality, such as conflict with the locals over loss of jobs, destruction of the surrounding environment and criminal activities, among others.

The Home Ministry is worried over the criminal threats received from the Rohingya Muslims, which could invite social and religious tensions. Since most of the refugees arrive in Nepal via Indian territory, it behooves the governments of both the countries to regulate the border so that they don't pose a problem for either of the countries.

Clear the hurdles

Vacancy announcement for fresh teachers, internal promotion and exam for teaching licence for community schools has been halted for many months as the council of ministers has yet to approve the regulations of the Teachers' Service Commission (TSC). The TSC is going to recruit 17,047 teachers to fill the vacant positions at various levels. Among them, the highest number of vacancies is for basic level (12,912), followed by lower secondary level (2,593) and secondary level (1,542).

A cabinet meeting has sent back the regulations amendment proposal to the concerned committee to remove procedural hurdles on the vacancy announcement.

Vacancy announcement for teachers, internal promotion and exams for teaching licence process has been postponed indefinitely due to the delay in approving the regulations. Even if the regulations on the TSC are amended soon, it will take months to conduct the TSC exams for the new teachers and post them in the designated schools. It means the community schools will have to wait at least for one year to get new teachers. How can we expect quality education in public schools when the government itself dilly-dallies with the recruitment process?

A version of this article appears in the print on October 28, 2021, of The Himalayan Times.