Tibetans rejected by Sweden

Sweden no longer accepts the Tibetan Identity Certificate, also known as the Yellow Book, as a valid travel document.

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By: Ashok Rao

In a move that is beginning to be mirrored by many others, Sweden announced in June 2016 that it no longer accepts the Tibetan Yellow Book as a valid travel document. This document, officially known as an Identity Certificate (IC), issued by the government of India, classifies its holder as both a Tibetan refugee and a protectorate of India. It is this document that Tibetans travelling abroad use to entreat foreign countries to allow them to enter. This move by Sweden has sent reverberations throughout the Tibetan community in exile and indicates a global shift within international politics.

With a population of over 100 Tibetan refugees living in the country, Sweden has become weary of refugees, especially due to the situation in Europe and the Middle East which has seen a marked increase in the number of those seeking refuge in more developed countries. For this reason Sweden issued an official announcement that it would no longer accept the IC travel document in its processes allowing Tibetans to enter its borders. Tibetans wishing to enter Sweden will have to bear the identity documentation of an actual nation, like India or China. This means that Sweden no longer wants Tibetans to enter their country as Tibetans and as refugees; in effect, Sweden no longer recognizes the existence of a status such as “Tibetan refugee”.

An infographic used to announce that Sweden no longer accepts the Yellow Book as a valid form of identification that can be used during the visa application process.

One would assume that Sweden somehow would not have the right to turn down the Tibetan IC as a valid travel document, but in actuality this is not the case. Legally speaking, the Yellow Book has little weight outside of India’s borders and it is the discretion of any country whether they wish to accept it as a valid form of identification. The fact that Sweden can reject the Yellow Book harks back to the fact that India itself does not have a clear policy when it comes to refugees. India is not a signatory of the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, or the Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, all of which are international programmes that protect the rights of refugees, including their freedom to travel.

Since India does not belong to any of the above, the IC granted to Tibetans in exile does not have weight outside of its own borders, and legally does not need to be recognized as refugee travel documents. In this case, Sweden has simply exercised its legal rights to stop accepting the Tibetan IC as a valid travel document. Hence, no other nation state has challenged Sweden over its actions because they have no legal basis to do so. Certainly, aside from protesting Sweden’s actions, the Tibetan leadership can do very little to protect their people’s ability to visit Sweden.

The fact is that Sweden and other countries that have so far allowed Tibetans to enter their borders have done so out of kindness, and not legal obligation. Now, however, it seems the tide is turning, and many countries no longer want someone who identifies as ‘Tibetan’ within their borders. Tibetans can still enter their countries, just not as Tibetan ‘citizens’ or refugees. But this begs the question, why is it that they have implemented this change now?

One could argue that Sweden is simply reacting to events in Europe, with an increased number of those seeking refuge coming from all over the world. The number of refugees means resources allocated to the refugees are being stretched thin, and there is a strain on relationships between the host countries’ citizens and their newly-arrived guests. When Sweden’s actions are examined on a global scale however, it is quite clear that there is a political shift away from supporting Tibetans. This is evident by the number of countries who are surely but steadily distancing themselves from the Tibetans and their leadership, in favor of aligning themselves with China. It is a global trend that looks bleak for the Tibetan leadership indeed.

On the one hand there is this political distancing from the Tibetans and their leadership and on the other hand, many ordinary Tibetans, Tibetan Buddhists or Tibet enthusiasts from all around the world are waking up to the fact that the Tibetan leadership have done nothing but take advantage of their position and mismanaged their people. From the ban on Dorje Shugden, the unequal treatment of the Jonangpas, or their silence over forced conversions in the Kagyu school, the leadership have magnificently displayed their inability to govern and their blunderous mistakes. As their true colours are laid bare, they can do nothing but hide behind the skirts of their previous saviour, India.

However, India as the government who issues the Tibetan IC remains strangely silent on these issues. They have also done nothing to strengthen or legitimize the status of the Tibetans as legal refugees in the eyes of other nation states. Instead, India has offered them the choice to become full citizens of India if they give up their Tibetan identity. With so much apathy towards the Tibetans’ ability to travel, and even growing hostility towards their presence, one can only wonder as to the fate Tibetans will face in the years to come.


Sweden Does Not Accept India’s Tibetan Travel Document ‘IC’

Article describing Sweden no longer accepting the Tibetan IC on Tibetan Journal. Click to enlarge.


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15 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. It has again shown the incapability of CTA. After almost 60 years of begging for donation from other countries, they failed to bring their people to a level that is worth protection from other countries. Now with Sweden stopping the recognition of “Tibetan Refugee” travel document, it would only mean that more and more Tibetans in Exile will convert into India, and eventually they will lose their Tibetan identity.

    If CTA accuse China for killing the Tibetan identity, CTA is also guilty of it. After almost 60 years of exile, they too are killing the Tibetan identity, by a series of mismanagement and thus “forcing” or “encouraging” the Tibetans in exile to convert to India.

  2. Many more nations besides Sweden will reject the Tibetans from India because they have lost respect for the leaders of the Tibetans in exile. When countries support Tibetan leadership in India (CTA), what do they get? What benefits arise? Nothing? No one can keep supporting something with zero benefits. Tibetan leadership is like a spoiled child that is lazy to earn his own living. The spoiled child just want everything for free. After 60 years in exile the Tibetan leadership is no closer to getting Tibetan autonomy from China or a free Tibet.

    Tibetan leadership is not very intelligent because they want dialogue with China yet, they keep degrading China to western media always. They say what the western media wants to hear about China in order to get money from western governments. A free hand-out. But in the long run, they only get money and sold their country because the more they make friends with western governments the angrier China becomes. The Tibetans should make friends with China since Tibet is under China.

    Making friends with western governments for the last 60 years of exile has gotten the Tibetans nowhere. More and more Tibetans from India are moving to western countries and their children are slowly losing their culture and language. Too bad.

  3. If I am not mistaken this is the first country in Western Europe to deny the Yellow Book. Before Sweden took a stand, it was only Eastern European and African nations who denied entry to the Dalai Lama and Tibetans. Once one Western European country feels it is acceptable to deny the Tibetans refugee status, it will open the floodgates for many, many more to follow suit. They will all think, “Well if Sweden can, why can’t I?”

    I am not rejoicing or happy that the Tibetan people will have to suffer because of their leadership who will learn the hard way that they’ve antagonised the whole world, but it does serve them and their arrogance right.

  4. Tara – that is called white privilege, thinking Western Europe influences the world. Get your head out of your colonial mindset. Countries can decide for themselves what kind of friend China will be to them, and if it is worth giving up a Free Tibet for this.

  5. Situation could have change if CTA really work it out purely to benefit their people. Look at how China passport is getting stronger in the world but it goes the other way round for the yellow book. People no longer buy in or rather support Tibetan cause not because that the cause has no value but rather the political leader that heading the cause that doesn’t show or give the confident to world for them to stand for them. We see and heard more negative act from the Tibetan leadership particularly to their own Tibetan people more than what they have done to improve the situation for their people.

    The world only recognise HH the Dalai Lama for Tibet but not the political leader that govern the exile. Why so? Don’t forget HH has retired from political and why the exile leaders didn’t do anything just like how HH did to gain support. Obviously the Tibetan leaders has never done anything to gain the confidence from the world but just milking the HH the Dalai Lama for funding around the world. That’s not right at a policital leader!

    We will just see more countries rejecting the yellow book and situation will be much harder for CTA.

  6. It does not come as a surprise that Sweden is rejecting Tibetans refugees. She has many social issues with refugees in her country and is clamping down on refugees as a whole.

  7. Globally local governments are adopting the “protectionism” approach to most of their policies, be it for economic or immigration issues. This “selfish” approach is definitely a trend and with this degenerating values in humankind it will only further deteriorate.
    One hundred Tibetans currently living in Sweden will not be able to create any significant influence for its community to have a say in government policies relating to themselves. So it’s no surprise that the Swedish government do not recognise the Tibetan Yellow Book as a valid identification for Tibetans to travel into their country.
    Can CTA do anything about this for its people ? It is certainly their responsibility to negotiate better terms for its people.
    Sweden issued this “do not recognise Tibetans Yellow Book IC” since 2016 and nothing has changed since then – clearly CTA has no influence to do anything to help improve the situation. Sigh !

  8. It is indeed a double whammy for Tibetans after US removed their support for Tibetans and now Europe is declining and not recognising Tibet as a Official country.

    Giving the Tibetans a hard time to gain entry.. forcing them to either become Chinese or Indian and assimilating into the country and culture.. I won’t exactly say it is a wrong move or a waste.. since many other nationalities had been able to preserve their culture even though their national ity had change.

    Of course it is quite upsetting to lose Tibet as a nation.. but I believe culture and religion will be preserved. And of course.. CTA should wake up and not be corrupted any more and guide the people to true leadership!

  9. More than half a century of fumbling around surely is enough right for the CTA. They have not done much to help their own people in exile. And the Tibetans who have gone to the West and thrived, succeeded did it under their own ingenuity, CTA did not help that much at all.

    Sweden will not be the last country, to no accept CTA’s Yellow book, China is squeezing the life of CTA, and because CTA does not have the moral high ground only a matter of time before it capitulates. I think heading back to China is good initiative for Tibetans who are still in India.

  10. A question, how long more Tibetan in exile would like to remain their status as refugees? What have the Tibetan leaders in exile did to protect their citizen or they are just enjoying to be a refugee?

    I hope, CTA, instead of bully their own people, they should really deal with the real issues that they are facing, before too late

  11. By siding with the Dalai Lama and Tibetans, what does anyone get? Of course Sweden will not side with Tibetans. Better to side with China.

  12. It seems that one country after another is denying entry visa for the Tibetans In Exile using the IC issued by Indian Government. It shows that the support and kindness towards these refugees are diminishing and no longer welcomed as refugees. Well, I do agree that 60 years is too long a time to remain in refugee status. What have their leaders accomplished thus far? Nothing much other than to spend tremendous amount of sponsored monies on propaganda materials against China and later against the ancient authentic practice of Dorje Shugden, monies that were meant for the welfare of their people to lift them out of the refugee status. The leaders themselves live in luxury whilst their people constantly faced uncertainty in livelihood. Now with the turn of event where countries are rejecting their status, the people are in a very sad position where they will be confined to the settlements in host countries. Of course, unless they accept citizenship of countries offered which will then mean they are no longer Tibetans. Such a sad state of situation brought on by the failures of their government, the CTA. The Dalai Lama had promoted the idea of autonomy rule in Tibet under the Chinese Governance and yet the Prime Minister, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay and his ministers defied His Holiness’ wish with covert Anti-Chinese campaigns. Now they miss their chance or advantage in negotiation as China has grown to a powerful leader in the world platform now. How will Sikyong continue, I wonder? Will he have the courage to change by working with the Chinese towards a better Tibetan In Exiles’ future or will he just continue to lead in self serving policies that sells their people out? One thing for sure, using Dorje Shugden as cover up or divert the attention away from their failures is no longer effective as their people are wiser with more available facts on the internet.

  13. Sweden’s rejection of Tibetan refugees is understandable, though I sympathize greatly with a trusting community of Tibetan refugees in India which had looked towards their leadership to resolve their ‘status’(refuge or citizen) situation in India as well as to gain freedom of Tibet from China for them so that they could return home. The Tibetan leadership has done nothing with regard to the 2 vital issues. Instead it has embroiled their fellow Tibetans in exile in internal schismatic disputes by ostracising groups like the Shugden practitioners and others.

    Sweden has grown tired and wary of refugees, as it faces a continuous stream of refugees from around the world as a result of wars and unrest in many parts. Furthermore, having officially recognised Tibet as part of China, it would upset diplomatic and political relationships with China if they were to allow Tibetan refugees into their country.
    Hence , all fingers point to the Tibetan leadership for not doing their job and for letting down their fellow Tibetans in exile.

  14. Tibetans always make trouble wherever they live. They will not live quietly and appreciate the bigger economic goals of their host country. Many countries have a economic need to be friends with China as the cold war with China is thawing out. But Tibetans will never understand this. The needs of the 6 million Tibetans to them outweigh the needs of the rest of the 7 billion persons on this planet.

  15. I’m not surprised to learn that Sweden has rejected the travel documents of Tibetan refugees. Sweden, like some countries in Europe, is experiencing refugee problems from the Middle East and other parts of the world. The Tibetan refugees in India may have to decide sooner than expected whether to become Indian citizens or go back to Tibet and become Chinese nationals. I think it is not a bad option to return to the land of their ancestors. They will be able to reunite with relatives and friends and will not feel that they are foreigners. If they migrate to other countries, they will have to deal with problems normally faced by refugees. I wish them all the best.

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.…Instead of turning away people who practise Dorje Shugden, we should be kind to them. Give them logic and wisdom without fear, then in time they give up the ‘wrong’ practice. Actually Shugden practitioners are not doing anything wrong. But hypothetically, if they are, wouldn’t it be more Buddhistic to be accepting? So those who have views against Dorje Shugden should contemplate this. Those practicing Dorje Shugden should forbear with extreme patience, fortitude and keep your commitments. The time will come as predicted that Dorje Shugden’s practice and it’s terrific quick benefits will be embraced by the world and it will be a practice of many beings.

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