More than 100 Bhutanese to leave for Middle East next week to earn and support families back home despite risks

Amid Covid-19, a total of 133 people will be leaving for Kuwait and Dubai next week signing the undertaking letter that they are understand the risk and are leaving the country for jobs that they have. Most of them came for vacation and could not return back due to ban of international flights. Many people leaving to Middle East have expressed that they are worried but they have no other option than to leave. 

Foreign Minister Dr Tandi Dorji said people going back to Kuwait and Dubai were asked to sign the undertaking letter that they are going at their own risk and the government is discouraging them from going by looking at the current situation, but they have their jobs. If they have to come back then they have to bear the 21 day quarantine and also the air fare. The foreign ministry will continue to facilitate them.

The paper interviewed some of the people leaving to Kuwait next week. Pemba Tshering, 24 from Zhemgang who completed high school in 2015 left for Kuwait in 2017 in search of work. He was earning well there as a cashier in one of the companies and he was on vacation back in the country and due to COVID-19 pandemic he could not travel back to Kuwait. However, the company he was working in asked him to join work and now he is leaving for Kuwait next week.

Pemba said in such situation, no one would love to travel and it is risky but he was left with no other choice then to leave to Kuwait for work. “It’s been 10 months now that I have been doing nothing and how far can I depend to my sister. I feel guilty as she has her own family to look after.”

He said even if he looks for a job in Bhutan, it is very difficult and even if he gets one, with his qualification, the salary will be just for hand to mouth and it may not even be enough for the house rent.

Back in Kuwait, Pemba earns around Nu 25,000 to Nu 35,000 and with that he can easily save around Nu 15,000 in a month and he could also send some money to his family back in Bhutan.

He said some of his friends are doing fine and working there. “If one can strictly follow the company’s health protocol and follow necessary precautionary measures then it will not be much problem. And once I get there, there will be pick and drop for the employees. If one is careless and not able to follow health protocols then it will be same wherever a person is, so I believe it is not much of problem.”

Karma Wangdi, 27 from Trashiyangtse said rather than staying back in the country and doing nothing, it is better to be back in Kuwait and at least do the work which he has been doing for last three years in the airport. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the entire people in the world but normal life is still continuing.

Karma Wangdi decided to return back to Kuwait for work because of the unemployment issue in the country. There are jobs available but with no skills to work in the constructions or in the farming areas, it will be difficult for him to work.

He said the company he was working in Kuwait has asked him to rejoin his work. Although he says, it is better to be working in Bhutan but there are no jobs as he expects and the salary is lower. In terms of earning, working abroad is better, he said.

He went to Kuwait for work through Ministry of Labour and Human Resources (MoLHR) and it has been three years working in Kuwait now.

He said around 133 people will be leaving to Kuwait and Dubai next week and they have the similar reasons to head back.

Karma Wangdi said people may criticize them but if this pandemic does not get over for another year, with no job and money, survival will be very difficult, said.

Similarly, Jigme Lhendrup, 30, from Trongsa said in order to support his family, he is returning back to Kuwait for work. He said he looked for jobs in the country since 2015, and as he is just a high school graduate he could not get a decent job where he can support his family. He said he will be more than happy if he could at least support his family.

When he came back to Bhutan, he tried looking for a job but he couldn’t find one and he was not able to look after his sister, so he decided to head back. It has been around a year that he was working in Kuwait as a cashier. He worries that he might get the virus but there is no other option than to leave for Kuwait.

Pirtham from Samtse said she was on vacation for two months but due to COVID, all the international flights were banned and she could not return back. She said every year there is an increasing number of graduates and jobs available in the market is very less and some do not prefer to do blue collar jobs, so it is better to be working and earn a decent amount for living where she can also support her parents.

Yogita Rai from Samtse said she could not continue her studies due to her personal problems and with her qualification, she will not even get a job. She worked really hard to apply for work in Kuwait. Now she earns a decent amount and she is able to support her family and so she has to head back no matter the risks involved.

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