During question hour on June 16, 2023, the National Assembly (NA) Member of Parliament (MP) Dorjee Wangmo of Sombaykha constituency, Haa questioned minister Karma Dorji, Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Employment (MoICE) concerning the age limit of 29 for those leaving to work outside Bhutan.
The MP underlined that due to this, people who are ineligible may use illegal means to go abroad. Apart from going through agents who are not registered, she said that it could also lead to human trafficking.
“It will rather create more problems and issues for the country if this happens,” the MP said, adding that, it is very risky. The MP said that as per her research she found out that there isn’t any restriction of age in the Middle East. “For the benefit of people from humble background, it would be great to give them opportunities as they are not able to go to countries like Australia,”
The MP asked the minister if there are any considerations of raising the maximum age limit for interested young people.
In response, the MoICE minister said that, the program was made before by the government to give opportunities to the youth ranging between the ages of 21 to 29 years, as most of the youth in this age group were unemployed.
The minister said that if there are many people who are not eligible, then the ministry can study the situation and change the rules if required.
Hearing about this, a girl working in a restaurant said that it would definitely help people like her. “We do not qualify to go to Australia. Moreover, because of this age limit, I cannot go to the Middle East also. I am mot the only one. There are many like me and the government’s decision would definitely help us,” she said.
There are an estimated 5,000 Bhutanese working in the Middle East. The rush towards the Middle East began when the financial institutions stopped education loans for those going to Australia. This was coupled by visa rejections for Bhutanese applying for diploma courses in Australia.
Meanwhile, the Thimphu District Court on June 2, 2021, convicted three women in connection to Trafficking in Persons. The three women had trafficked 21 Bhutanese women to Iraq. The three had lured the girls saying that everything is free once they reach Iraq. They were promised very high income and a day-off in a week. They were also told that the work is very easy.
The case came to light on January 17, 2020. After that and under the command of His Majesty the King, the Royal Bhutan Police and other related agencies worked together and rescued 179 women in Iraq. Five women had got out themselves.
Sherab Dorji from Thimphu