Sherab Lhamo

During the question-and-answer session on October 9, Foreign Minister Dr Tandin Dorji revealed that approximately 42,829 Bhutanese citizens are residing in 112 countries worldwide.

Foreign ministry issued passports to about 44,000 people below the age of 30, while 36,000 fall within the 31 to 40 age group.

Chhumig-Ura MP Karma Wangchuk expressed concerns about the growing trend of Bhutanese citizens leaving the country.

He asked the minister, to share data on the number of youth departures by dzongkhag since 2018, along with the total count of Bhutanese living abroad.

The data revealed that the majority of Bhutanese citizens abroad are located in Australia, with an estimated 17,000 individuals, followed by India with 13,800 and Kuwait with 4,000 residents.

Lyonpo also noted the presence of thousands of Bhutanese in various other countries.

Lyonpo announced the launch of a mobile app by the ministry that will facilitate the registration of Bhutanese citizens living abroad, thereby enhancing the availability of concrete data, beginning next year.

He emphasised that this app will also enable individuals living abroad to access necessary services.

According to data from Paro International Airport, from 2018 to 2023, approximately 14,000 people have left the country, with an estimated total of 50,000 departures over an eight-year period.

During this time, the Royal Bhutan Police issued approximately 45,000 security clearances.

Trashigang has the highest number of residents living abroad with 3,870, followed by Mongar with 3,000, Samtse with 2,300, and Sarpang with 2,500.

Lyonpo explained that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, there was no systematic recording of Bhutanese citizens living abroad. However, in response to the challenges posed by the pandemic, the government initiated data collection efforts, with both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Passport and Immigration Office involved in the process.

In 2023, the number of passports issued saw an increase from 28,000 to 32,000 compared to the previous year. Since 2014, a total of 80,000 passports were issued, with around 12,000 being issued monthly before 2021.

Lyonpo said that less than 10 percent of the population resides abroad, expressing concern about the departure of experienced individuals from both the civil service and the private sector.

He also emphasised the importance of appreciating Bhutanese youth seeking opportunities abroad, considering the limited prospects within the country.

Such opportunities abroad, he said,  can include education and income generation, with the potential for these individuals to return and contribute to Bhutan’s development, especially in its developing phase.