Tashi Palkhiel Tibetan Refugee Camp, Nepal
In the years 1959-1961 following the 1959 Tibetan uprising and exile of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, over 20,000 Tibetans migrated to Nepal. Since then, many have emigrated to India or settled in refugee camps set up by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the government of Nepal.
Those who arrived before 1989 were issued refugee ID cards and benefitted from de facto economic integration; however more recent arrivals have no legal status and cannot own property, businesses, vehicles or be employed lawfully. Many of these recent arrivals transit through the Himalaya to Nepal on their way to India.
The largest settlement is close to Pokhara, Nepal. Tashi Palkhiel is about 5km northwest of Pokhara, Nepal in the foothills of the Himalaya. It is the largest settlement and at one point had upwards of 1,000 Tibetan refugees in exhile. Due to aging population and challenging Nepalese government policies, the population has dwindled towards about 500 residents. Many people leave for India where the Dalai Lama resides.
In 2009, the senior center housed under twenty refugees. These men and women represented the only residents of the settlement who were born in Tibet. They fled their homes on foot and crossed the mighty Himalaya seeking safety from the Chinese government. As they pass on, their heritage and culture passes with them.
The majority of refugees in Tashi Palkhiel were born in Nepal. They receive no voting or employment rights from the Nepalese government. They hold on to their culture through tradition. Jangchub Choeling monastery was created in 1963 by Lama Dupsing Rinpoche in order to meet the spiritual needs of the Tibetan and Nepalese population there. The eldest son from every family is expected to receive their education at the monastery. At age 18 they can decide whether to pursue a monastic life or rejoin the community at large.
One of the few commercial operations at the village is a Tibetan carpet mill. Prices for small rugs can still fetch hundreds to thousands in US dollars. Even still, the factory is required to hire two local Nepalese weavers. The third weaver is the singular Tibetan. This is a result of Nepal's government interference in the refugee village politics. This is where refugee status leaves an entire population in limbo despite the loss of their native homeland.