A group of 10 Bhutanese young women, all below the age of 30 years had left for Qatar with fake visas on first week of March from Paro Airport but upon reaching Delhi airport the staff in the airport did not let them board as they were suspected to be travelling on fake visas.
All Bhutanese wishing to travel to the middle-east actually has to go through registered agencies, however, if they are travelling privately they will need a letter from employers.
Minister of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) Dr Tandi Dorji said that they have set three criteria for people wanting to go outside, especially in middle-east to work, whereby they can only travel through registered agencies; if going privately than the employers should be the guarantor; and third criteria being, no Bhutanese is allowed to go and work as domestic servants.
He said, “In the past we have arrested four people who have sent people through unlicensed agencies and they were penalized. And the one who we are suspecting in today’s case is the one who got involved in the same case in the past.”
The Ministry has tried to investigate to find out but both the agency and the 10 women denied knowing each other, however, they are still investigating the case, Lyonpo added.
The 10 women are in the embassy at Delhi for now and in few days they will be leaving for Qatar as the embassy has verified their travel with a company in Qatar.
Now, all Bhutanese who want to travel out, must have a letter from respective agencies. But if a person wants to travel with no reason, they will not be allowed.
“To prevent trafficking, we have communicated with countries with whom we have a diplomatic relationship, including Qatar and UAE saying that before they issue visas they must refer the cases to foreign ministry so that we can verify if their travel is authentic,” he added.
He said that they had a very difficult time rescuing 160 girls through His Majesty’s Kidu and they have spent a lot of money in doing so. “So, MoFA along with the Ministry of Labor and Department of Immigration (DoI), are working very closely to ensure how to monitor and regulate Bhutanese who wants to go out. They have reviewed the SOP’s and they will include those which were missing,” he added
Lyonpo said, “It is not that we want to stop them from going because they can make their livelihood but because of associated risks. We are trying to create opportunities within our country by providing trainings on entrepreneurship and help them through CSI bank, BBP and DeSuung programs.”
Though the MoFA has been handling the travel during the pandemic, the responsibility is now handed over to DoI as they have branch offices.
Therefore, from now on wards, any Bhutanese wanting to travel should report to the DoI desk and they will verify every travel. “If they can be true about their destination and their work than it would be convenient for a government to monitor should there be any problem in future,” Lyonpo said.
Meanwhile, the Labor Minister Ugyen Dorji said that they were not aware of the recent case as they were not routed through a licensed agent. On the matter they were into discussions with MoFA and based on the meeting the committee has decided that there will be sharing more of information when it comes to verifying and clearing the applicants for travelers.
“MoFA is taking the lead but as to whether they are routing through a licensed agent or if they are going to a safe destination and jobs, our ministry will see,” he added.
Due to the pandemic, the overseas programs were put at halt, in-fact there are thousands of returnees. Agents have come to the ministry but they have not given them the approval to send anyone overseas.
Those who went during pandemic where facilitated by MoFA.
He said, “To stop this ultimately it will have to be the individual themselves who will have to take the responsibility. The government can also do a lot, especially in terms of sensitization on the down side of going abroad through unlicensed agents or on their own.”