Baghdad, Iraq

Government spent Nu 500 million to Rescue 169 Bhutanese Women from the Middle East: Foreign Minister

On the Tenth Session of the National Assembly, Lyonpo Dasho Tandi Dorji, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and External Trade, emphasized the pride that Bhutanese nationals can now seek better opportunities abroad, including countries like Australia and the United Kingdom unlike the past.

“Before these opportunities became available, the government (former) once explored the idea of sending Bhutanese to work in the Middle East. Yet, we all know the array of issues we encountered. To rescue 169 Bhutanese women from the Middle East nations, the government incurred an expenditure exceeding 500 million,” he stated.

The women had been duped and sent by unauthorized agents without government permission.

The efforts to bring these Bhutanese women safely back home from Iraq were initiated in early 2020.

A Joint Task Force was established, comprising various government agencies, to coordinate these critical efforts.

Approximately 106 of the women were rescued from the autonomous Kurdistan region, while another 55 were saved from Baghdad. The last three Bhutanese girls in Iraq were successfully brought back on January 4, 2021.

A common thread running through many of their experiences was the deception they faced. Many of these women came to Iraq under the false pretense that they were heading to Dubai or Turkey, only to find themselves in a nightmarish situation that bore little resemblance to the promising picture painted for them.

Numerous petitions and testimonies revealed that these women were often smuggled into Iraq, and many suffered from reports of sexual harassment, which is deeply concerning.

The Royal Bhutan Police (RBP) has taken action against agents responsible for duping these women into traveling to Iraq. Several arrests and prosecutions have been initiated, highlighting the illegal nature of many of these agents.

On average, this equates to over Nu 2.9 million spent for the rescue of each individual.

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