RBP charge sheets 9 cases of Trafficking of a Person involving 11 suspects to OAG so far

18 more cases involving 30 suspects is yet to be charge sheeted

Royal Bhutan Police (RBP), Department of Law and Order (DLO), Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), and Department of Immigration (DoI) collaborated to rescue 163 Bhutanese women, from 21 years to 50 years of age, in 7 batches, from Iraq upon Royal Command. The first batch of women was rescued on 9 April 2020 while the 7th batch was rescued on 1 February 2021 from Iraq.

In connection to this, RBP has charge sheeted 9 cases of Trafficking of Person to Office of Attorney General (OAG). The 9 cases involve 11 suspects accused of sending 70 victims aged between 17 to 40 years of age to Iraq. The first case was charge sheeted in early December 2021.

RBP is yet to charge sheet 18 more cases involving 30 suspects. However, the involvement of both victims and suspects is subject to change. Some of the suspects were sent on bail while some are released on surety. However, none of the suspects can travel abroad to escape the law, as their passports are withheld lawfully.

Of 11 suspects, 2 are male while 9 are female aged between 32 to 43 years of age. The suspects are said to once victims to such cases in the past, whereby in the process they have turned, themselves, into an unlicensed recruitment agent.

90 percent of the rescued women worked as housemaids, and a few of them worked in hotels and beauty parlors. All of them wanted to explore better job prospects, and were promised decent jobs with handsome pay in Iraq. However, the reality was harrowing, as most of them were duped, enslaved and tortured. Some of the women were sexually harassed.

Police said that there is the need of awareness programs on trafficking of person and laws related to it. For now, people are not aware that such a crime is happening, which ultimately leads to risk of falling a victim to it.

Meanwhile, DLO launched the National Prevention and Response Strategy (NPRS) to address trafficking in person (TIP).

As per the NPRS, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in 2013 noted an increasing number of human trafficking cases were reported in the country. Till 2020, 11 cases were registered with RBP, out of which seven cases were prosecuted.

Though factors leading to TIP are wide-ranging and complex, factors such as poverty, unemployment, gender inequality, family problems, unhappy family situation, etc., continue to be a major contributor to a person’s vulnerability to trafficking.

According to DLO, an increase in labour mobility coupled with lack of gainful employment opportunities within the country in rural areas has resulted in vulnerable individuals falling prey to the hands of illegal/ unregistered recruitment agencies, for accessing income opportunities both within Bhutan and abroad.

The cases that Bhutan has evidenced till date are primarily of unsafe labour migration using the unregistered recruitment channels, resulting into trafficking.

Of many objectives of developing NPRS, the specific objective is to facilitate and support a coordinated coherence in implementation of inter-agency anti-trafficking responses in Bhutan that align with the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) for a multi-stakeholder response to address TIP.

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