73 foreigners get visa amnesty

- DEWAN RAI, Kathmandu

Mar 23, 2015-

The government has offered visa amnesty to 73 foreigners, waiving overstay fines totalling more than Rs 70 million for taking shelter illegally in Nepal for years. This is the first instance that the government has granted waiver to so many illegal migrants.

Nepal gives refugee status to only Bhutanese and Tibetan people. All other foreign nationals overstaying their visas are treated as illegal immigrants and are consequently levied $5 a day. The accruing daily fines for overstay leave many immigrants facing with huge dues, trapping them in the country forever.

Nepal is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and it does not have a clear legal framework to deal with asylum-seekers or refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) gives refugee status to asylum-seekers if they produce credible documents to prove their life-threatening situation in their native countries.   

“The government took the decision to waive off the fine on condition that these migrants would never return to Nepal once they repatriated to their home countries or resettled in the third countries,” said Laxmi Prasad Dhakal, Home Ministry spokesperson.

The UNHCR and Nehal Biswas, US under secretary for South and Central Asia, had made the request to the government. Biswas had visited Nepal as an observer at the Saarc Summit in November.

Nepal has illegal migrants from 11 countries, majority of whom are from Pakistan, Somalia and Myanmar. The Home Ministry claims the number of such illegal migrants is 350, while the UNHCR puts it at 500.

Dhakal said the number of illegal migrants is on the rise. According to him, many have been living in the country for decades. “We are seeking help of the UNHCR to repatriate them to their home countries or resettle them in third countries,” he said.

Published: 24-03-2015 08:49

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