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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

South Asia

December 15, 2014

In which countries does the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) work in the region?

India, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan

What are the major challenges for refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) in the region?

Tibetan Refugees: Since the Dalai Lama fled China in 1959, a continuous flow of Tibetans have left China seeking asylum in Nepal, India, Bhutan and elsewhere, leading to a population of over 130,000 Tibetans currently living in settlements and urban areas throughout South Asia. Through the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM), as well as the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the U.S. government provides support to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to carry out humanitarian assistance activities for Tibetan refugees in South Asia. However, the numbers of Tibetans departing China has dropped from 2,156 in 2007 to 75 as of November 2014. Additionally, the government of China continues to pressure the government of Nepal to curtail the activities of Tibetans within Nepal. PRM continues to work to ensure that Tibetan asylum seekers are not returned involuntarily to China and to enhance protection for Tibetan refugees resident in Nepal and elsewhere.

Bhutanese Refugees: The U.S. government supports camps in southeastern Nepal that, as of November 2014, host fewer than 24,000 Bhutanese refugees. The Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration of the U.S. Department of State funds UNHCR, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and NGOs to provide assistance to the Bhutanese. The United States government and other donors urge the governments of Bhutan and Nepal to resume bilateral discussions, or trilateral discussions with UNHCR, so that interested Bhutanese refugees can pursue voluntary repatriation or local integration.

Sri Lankan Refugees and Internally Displaced Persons: Fighting which concluded in May 2009 resulted in the displacement of nearly 300,000 Sri Lankans, in addition to the 300,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) already in protracted displacement. As of November 2014, approximately 496,584 IDPs have returned to their areas of origin and 6,000 refugee facilitated returns have occurred since the end of the war. Formal camps for these IDPs are now closed. However, the number of IDPs that still remain is unknown as the Sri Lankan government stopped providing comprehensive data on IDPs after December 2012. Most IDPs live with host families while others live in welfare centers or in makeshift transit situations. The U.S. government advocates for needed infrastructure and services so that IDPs can achieve durable solutions and re-establish their lives. The U.S. government, through contributions managed by the Department of State and USAID, provides program funding for Sri Lankans to UNHCR, International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and NGO partners.

Through PRM, the U.S. government funds NGO projects to support about 67,000 Sri Lankan refugees living in 112 camps in Tamil Nadu, India to provide protection, improve camp conditions, livelihoods training, and prevention and response to sexual and gender based violence. Since the end of the conflict, approximately 6,000 refugees have voluntarily returned to Sri Lanka to rebuild their lives, a process supported by the U.S. government through its contributions to UNHCR both in Sri Lank and in India.

How much funding did the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration program for projects in the region in Fiscal Year 2014 (October 1, 2013– September 30, 2014)?

The Bureau programmed over $16 million in South Asia in Fiscal Year 2014 to support refugees, returnees, asylum seekers, internally displaced persons, conflict victims, and stateless persons, not including those from Afghanistan and Pakistan.

In which countries does the Department of State base Refugee Coordinators in the region? Which countries do they cover?

The Regional Refugee Coordinator and Deputy Regional Refugee Coordinator are based in Kathmandu, Nepal and cover Nepal, India, Sri Lanka, and Bhutan.

Which of the Bureau’s international organization (IO) and non-governmental organization (NGO) partners are active in your region?

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are all active in the region.

In addition, PRM provides funding to NGOs who work with several other vulnerable populations, including the Tibet Fund and local NGOs which provide assistance to Tibetan refugees, and Catholic Relief Services, Salesian Missions, and Adventist Development and Relief Agency, which work to improve the situation of Sri Lankan refugees.

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