The number of Tibetan refugees staying in different settlements across the country has fallen sharply from 1.5 lakh to 85,000 in the last seven years. According to a report in The Indian Express, the sharp fall in the number of the Tibetan refugees could be due to several factors including the absence of a national refugee policy. Government’s advisor on Tibet Affairs Amitabh Mathur told the daily that a large number of Tibetan refugees have either migrated to the US or returned to Tibet that is under the control of China.
Mathur said that their number could be around 85,000 but the exact figure will be known only when all of them are registered online.
“Their numbers could be approximately 85,000, but we will get the exact figure once all of them are registered online. In the past two years, the government has simplified the process and made everything accessible on the internet,” Mathur said.
Mathur said that the government has introduced measures to ‘smoothen’ the Tibetan refugees stay in the country. He explained that migrants who are registered online are granted residential certificates for 5 years and these certificates are subject to renewal depending upon the circumstances.
“Such certificates may be renewed for five years on each occasion as and when applicable,” Mathur, who took over as an interlocutor in 2015, said.
“For visits abroad, one-year multiple entry return visa is being issued by FRRO. In case migrants are shifting, they may intimate online, avoiding the need for visits to the centre and delays in manual transfer of registration,” he added.
When asked Tibetans seeking Indian passports to fly abroad, Mathur said that if a Tibetan refugee becomes a citizen of India, he will not be entitled to avail the benefits of relief and rehabilitation. The Indian government has listed six conditions for Tibetans to obtain Indian citizenship.
Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) spokesperson Sonam Dagpo said that the number of Tibetans going abroad has increased and also the birth rate among Tibetans living in India has declined. “However, Tibetans in exile in India are close to 1 lakh. Those who may have taken Indian citizenship may be less than 100 in number,” the official said.
According to government’s 2011 data, then MoS for Home Affairs M Ramachandran had told the Parliament that the total number of Tibetan refugees staying in 45 settlement camps was 1.5 lakh.
An MHA official said that government recognises Tibetans as foreigners, not as refugees, therefore, they can’t own any property in the country neither can apply for government jobs. India is not a signatory of the 1951 United Nations convention on refugees which makes States accountable for their wellbeing. However, after 2014, only qualified professionals from among the Tibetan refugees are allowed to take jobs in private and non-government sectors.
The 2009 MHA data on Tibetan refugees staying in India shows that the major concentration is in Karnataka (44,468), Himachal Pradesh (21,980), Arunachal Pradesh (7,530), Uttarakhand (8,545), West Bengal (5,785) and Jammu and Kashmir (6,920).