Tibetan MPs express concern over asylum issues in Europe

DHARAMSHALA, July 9: Tibetan members of parliament from Europe, Wangpo Tethong and Thupten Wangchen, have expressed concerns over the obstacles faced by Tibetans seeking asylum in European Countries, especially Switzerland and Belgium, urging them to understand the refugee law of the respective country before making their journey.

“The highest administrative court in Switzerland has revised its legal position regarding Tibetan asylum seekers and has issued a final ruling that is of greatest significance for all pending cases,” Wangpo told Phayul. “Tibetans who did not have any identity papers and whose linguistic analysis show that he had been raised outside of Tibet, will be recognized as a refugee based on the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees.”

Wangpo said that many Tibetans from India and Nepal have managed to get recognized as refugees and therefore were granted asylum or at least obtained a right to stay legally in Switzerland. “This has changed now because Tibetans, who were previously living in India or Nepal before coming to Switzerland and applied for asylum in Switzerland, do not technically fulfill the criteria of a refugee (in the eyes of Swiss law.)” The court, on May 20, rejected the asylum application of a Tibetan who failed to produce a valid identity proof of his origin as Tibet.

Accordingly, the Belgium Commissioner General for Refugees and Stateless Persons (CGRS) has started issuing a series of rulings since the beginning of 2014 titled “Refusal of Recognition of Refugee Status and Refusal to Grant Subsidiary Protection Status”. In Belgium, forty of 196 Tibetans have been denied asylum and are not permitted to work.

The Belgian authorities justify that Tibetans residing in India are entitled to a “Registration Certificate for Tibetans” and that India provides a good level of protection, including the principle of non-refoulement to Tibet/China.

Thubten Wangchen said he accompanied Ngodup Dorjee, the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Europe, to meetings with Belgian officials with an appeal to help the Tibetans. “However, I think this situation will not change for quite some time and it is useless to hope for change also. Tibetans in France are also facing the same problem and some say that it will get worse,” said Wangchen.

Based on these rulings in Belgium and in Switzerland, a rising number of Tibetan applicants are not even provided with a preliminary residential permit, according to the two MPs. “This results in the deprivation of their legal titles and consequently in the status of “Sans Papiers”, cutting them off from the welfare system and excluding them from the job market, hence being stuck in Europe without any prospect to improve their lives,” said Wangchen.

“It seems that there is a pattern in European Asylum law emerging and that all Tibetan asylum seekers in Europe will be affected by these rulings, even though every case must be judged individually,” added Wangpo.

Phayul[Wednesday, July 09, 2014 17:10]


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