For 40 years there has been a steady stream of Tibetans fleeing, seeking asylum in India and Nepal. But the road is not easy and a new study to be published in the November issue of the American Journal of Public Health has found high rates of physical and mental hardship among Tibetan refugees crossing the Himalayan range from China to Nepal.
"We found evidence of severe physical and mental hardships among refugees at the Tibetan refugee transit centre in Kathmandu, Nepal," says senior author Edward Mills, a research fellow with the department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics at McMaster University.
The dangerous journey from China to Nepal, at an average altitude of nearly 14,000 feet across the world's highest mountain range, is attempted by about 2,500 Tibetan refugees every year.
The researchers conducted interviews with 50 recent refugees, including women and children at the refugee centre in Kathmandu and found more than half faced persecution at the hands of both Chinese and Nepalese authorities.
"The study findings indicate systematic violations of the refugee's rights, including torture, extortion, sexual assault and illegal detention," says Mills. "Many refugees experienced severe health concerns including frostbite, trauma and starvation."
The authors state that "international pressures are needed to prevent these human rights violations against this vulnerable population."
Collaborators on the paper include: Sonam Dolma, York University; Toronto Ontario; Sonal Singh, Wake Forest University, Winston Salem; Lynne Lohfeld, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario; and James J. Orbinski, St. Michael's Hospital, Toronto, Ontario.