India halts Tibetans' 'go-west' plans

In the new year, Tibetans will no longer be issued exit permits by the Indian Govt to migrate to western nations.

india Updated: Dec 12, 2006 19:35 IST

Tibetan immigrants, who have often been using India as a springboard to settle down in Western countries, will not be able do so, as the Indian government has decided to stop issuing exit permits to them after December 31.

A large number of Tibetans have been entering India through Nepal on the basis of special entry permits (SEPs) and then seeking exit permits from the Indian government to move to western countries for better prospects.

The Indian government has now told the Tibetan government-in-exile - the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) - that exit permits will no longer be issued after the year end, CTA sources confirmed in Dharamsala.

It said that many Tibetans use India as a transit point to travel abroad - a practice which would be disallowed from next month. The move, though not directly linked, comes less than a month after Chinese President Hu Jintao visited India on November 20-24.

The CTA has on its part issued a circular to its offices and Tibetans across India through its official website, informing them of the new rule.

The Kashag (Tibetan cabinet) circular says that since the number of Tibetan immigrants seeking exit permits had been increasing over the last few years, the Indian government "felt uncomfortable" with the situation.

According to CTA sources, many Tibetans, especially recent immigrants, had migrated to western countries in recent years. They were using the same Tibet-Nepal-India circuit to come to India with their family members and then would settle down in western countries by getting exit permits issued by India.

There are over 100,000 Tibetans living in settlements across India and another 30,000 others settled in other countries, especially in US, Canada and European nations.

Tibetan spiritual head the Dalai Lama resides in Mcloedganj, 10 km from Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh, ever since he fled Tibet's capital Lhasa in 1959. He has been granted political asylum in India along with scores of other Tibetans.

Since Tibet is not recognised as a country, Tibetans coming into India are issued SEPs at the Kathmandu-based Indian embassy to travel to India.

The SEPs are issued for pilgrimage (one month), education (one year) and other categories. Many Tibetans take the longer SEP and then apply for a registration certificate (RC) once they reach Dharamsala or any other Tibetan settlement in India.

The RC later entitles them to apply for an identity certificate (IC), which is similar to a passport. They then seek an exit permit to go to other countries.

First Published: Dec 12, 2006 14:03 IST