Dangerous journey: documenting the experience of Tibetan refugees

Sonam Dolma, Sonal Singh, Lynne Lohfeld, James J Orbinski, Edward J Mills

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


OBJECTIVES: Since the 1950 invasion of Tibet by China, Tibetan refugees have attempted to flee into Nepal over the Himalayan mountains. We documented the experiences of a group of refugees making this journey.

METHODS: We conducted semistructured interviews with 50 recent refugees at the Tibetan Refugee Transit Centre in Kathmandu, Nepal.

RESULTS: Participants ranged in age from 8 to 56 years, and 21 were female. The average length of their journey from Tibet to Nepal was 34 days. During their journey, a majority of the refugees encountered authorities or became involved in altercations with Nepali Maoist groups. Most of these interactions resulted in extortion and threats of expulsion. Several Tibetans were tortured, beaten with weapons, threatened with being shot, and robbed. Three women were sexually assaulted at gunpoint.

CONCLUSIONS: The refugees who took part in this study experienced physical and mental hardships and, often, human rights abuses on their journey to Nepal. International pressure is needed to prevent human rights violations and reduce potential long-term physical and mental health effects associated with this dangerous crossing.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2061-4
Number of pages4
JournalAmerican Journal of Public Health
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Coercion
  • Female
  • Human Rights Abuses
  • Humans
  • Hunger
  • Infant
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nepal
  • Police
  • Prisons
  • Qualitative Research
  • Refugees
  • Social Welfare
  • Theft
  • Tibet
  • Time
  • Torture
  • United Nations
  • Violence
  • Journal Article


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