Thinley Namgay  

The Office of the Attorney General (OAG) charged a couple from Trongsa for trafficking 44 Bhutanese women to the Middle East countries in 2018 and 2019. Of the 44 women, 42 were trafficked to Iraq, and two to Oman.

The case was registered in the Thimphu dzongkhag court last week.

According to the OAG, they were charged for trafficking 44 women to Iraq and Oman through their agents in India, United Arab Emirates, Iraq and Oman.

The 40-year old woman and a 38-year-old man were charged for trafficking each woman, amounting to 44 trafficking charges.

As per the investigation by the police and the Department of Law and Order (DLO), the husband assisted the wife to transport and harbour the women.

According to the charges, the woman absconded since 2015 and lived in Delhi, India  after she couldn’t repay debt to lenders  and started trafficking the women, earning USD 1,100 to USD 2,200 for each woman.

OAG also stated that the woman’s main agents in Iraq paid her Nu 12,500 as house rent, Nu 8,500 for food and lodging expenses for women, internet charge Nu 1,000, and electricity bill Nu 3,000 a month. “She also got other tips while demanding from the agent.  She also collected Nu 341,400 as employment fees from the girls.”

It was also learnt that after absconding, the woman worked in a tour agent in Delhi for a year and eight months in 2017. In the meantime, the tour operator told her she got a job in Dubai as a housemaid, but when she went there, she found out she was trafficked to an agent in Dubai.

After working for six months as a housemaid in Dubai, she started working with the agent and trafficked women.

She had initially persuaded three Indian women to come to Oman and received money. She then returned to Delhi and started working for other agents too to repay her debt.

The 36-paged charges stated the woman contacted the victims on social media claiming that they will be paid USD 350 to 400 a month with free food and lodging.

It was also claimed that she lured the women by showing them promising pictures of working in the Middle East. The women paid between Nu 25,000 and Nu 30,000 to process the passport.

According to the charges, she deceived the women by not revealing the harsh working conditions in the Middle East countries. She lied that the workplaces are in Dubai, Qatar and Kuwait. She revealed the working destination when the girls are in Delhi and left with no other option to return.

It also stated that to gain the trust of the girls, she took them to her home in Delhi and let them stay lavishly, took them shopping and also paid the bills. “While processing passports, she lied to officials that the women are going to the Middle East either for holiday, to meet relatives, to do business or to study in neighbouring countries.”

Meanwhile, after reaching the Middle East, the women had to work for many hours and they were physically tortured, raped and agents didn’t pay their salary. “They were kept in the building and warned to not move outside and were locked during the night and made to work for 10 hours a day,” OAG charges stated.

It also stated that while complaining about the working condition, the women were beaten and threatened. Some were locked in the room without food.

When the women said that they wanted to return, they were asked to pay between USD 4,500 and USD 9,000. While discussing with the trafficker, she demanded the women to pay her Nu 600,000 or continue their work.

The government spent USD 691,032.14 or Nu 51.8 million to repatriate 163 victims from the Middle East.

Of the 30 agents accused of trafficking Bhutanese women to the Middle East, the special investigation team had forwarded 16 cases to the OAG so far. OAG officials said that the remaining cases would be also forwarded to the court soon.

In total, 184 women had been trafficked to the two Middle East countries of Iraq and Oman. Out of the 184 women, 174 were trafficked to Iraq and while nine were sent to Oman.