Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji

Govt says delay in processing documents for those going abroad is due to huge numbers and not an attempt to stop them

Due to the increase in the number of Bhutanese traveling abroad, especially to Australia and Canada, there are rumors that the government has imposed restrictions to discourage Bhutanese from leaving the country.

This has caused much concerns as some felt there was a deliberate slowdown in the processing of travel documentations, which was taken as an indirect restriction.

Hoever, Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji, there is no such travel restrictions in place. The slowdown is being felt as the number of people who want to travel abroad (Australia and Canada) has increased substantially as compared to the last few years.

“We are concerned, as many people are leaving. For every country, losing their own people is a concern, but at a same time, we cannot stop them either. We are presuming that people are going for good, and they are finding better places to become skilled and educated, so that they come back to serve in better ways,” he added.

They are leaving for better opportunities and Bhutan at the moment is undergoing a lot of transformation and reforms. Hopefully, with all the new reforms including in the tourism sector, it will create better platform and opportunities, Lyonpo added.

He further said that the whole purpose of the transformation and reform is to create better opportunities for the young people so that they do not have to go abroad. However, it might take another year or so to revive the economy, which is in bad shape, as country was hit hard by the pandemic.

He said, “We won’t restrict anyone from going. We are rather finding ways to facilitate our people, to our best. Just because it’s taking lots of time (to process documents) doesn’t mean we are restricting. The only factor contributing to it is due to huge number of candidates.”

Facilitating the medical screening required for the visa processing is challenging, he said, adding that with just six doctors certified to screen, they are able to look after only 50 to 60 people in a day. The six doctors are sacrificing their weekends to facilitate the services, Lyonpo added.

The government, in order to fasten the pace of services, is requesting the Australian government to empanel the doctors and hospitals in Gelephu and Mongar to become centers for medical screening.

According to Lyonpo, the only biometric center in the country can only serve a limited number of people in a day.  The government does not have the authority to increase the number of biometric centers as it is between the private sector and the Australian government.

Nevertheless, Lyonpo said that with an increase in number of candidates and burden on the office, somebody should propose to set up a facilitation center in other districts, wherein the government can help facilitate and coordinate.

In terms of Marriage Certificate (MC), he said, “There have been some issues in the past, wherein the couple after reaching abroad wanted to divorce, which is challenging for the couple. Therefore, one must take such a decision judiciously, legally and correctly.”

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