There are more than 20,000 Tibetan refugees living in about 12 settlements across the country. However, the true number of Tibetan refugees is not known. Some estimates suggest that 30,000 Tibetans live in Kathmandu alone. While some Tibetan refugees arrived in Nepal in the early 1950s, the first major influx crossed the border in 1959, following the Lhasa Uprising. They established camps primarily in the Himalayan border regions of Nepal such as Mustang, Nubri, and Solu Khumbu. However, few possessed the means to establish settlements with long-term economic viability. By 1961, many of the refugees faced serious food shortages and suffered from a lack of adequate shelter and healthcare. In May 1960, Nepal requested assistance from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other aid organizations. The ICRC established emergency relief programs for the refugees. These programs were funded mostly by the United States Agency for International Development. In response to the refugees’ plight, the Tibetan government established the Kathmandu Tibetan Welfare Office, a branch of the Tibetan Ministry of Home Affairs. The Tibetan Welfare Office functioned as a liaison between the refugees, various aid organizations, and the Nepalese government. Also known as the Office of Tibet, it continues to serve this vital role today. In the early 1960s, the Nepalese government established four “temporary” Settlements for the Tibetan refugees: 1. Chialsa, in the Solu Khumbu mountain range east of Kathmandu; 2. Tashi Palkhiel, on the outskirts of Pokhara;
3. Dhorpatan, in western Nepal; and
4. Jawalakhel, on the southern edge of Kathmandu.
The Nepal Red Cross (NRC), purchased the land for these settlements with funds donated by UNHCR. From 1959 to 1986, but particularly in the years before 1974, Nepal willingly allowed the work of foreign governments and humanitarian organizations involved in...