Phub Dem  | Paro

The government will arrange four relief flights to the Middle East from May 9 to 16 to bring back Bhutanese stranded there.

Two flights to Kuwait will bring home 280 Bhutanese along with 118 from Dubai and 137 from Doha, Qatar, according to foreign minister Tandi Dorji.

With the extension of lockdown in the Middle East, Lyonpo said that Bhutanese working there was showing interest to return home as they were asked to resign.

Lyonpo said that the government would send flights according to the number of Bhutanese willing to return and had registered with the embassy. “If those willing to return home exceeds 100, we can reduce the airfare.”

At a press briefing yesterday, Lyonpo Tandi Dorji said that about 3,000 Bhutanese are still outside and the government was planning to send flights to bring them back.

According to Lyonpo, the government had planned to bring back 649 Bhutanese that includes 97 residing in India from Delhi on March 5. “We are sending another flight to Kolkata on May 5 to bring back 17 Bhutanese left there.”

He said that if India allowed internal flights, Bhutanese residing in remote areas could fly to Bagdogra. “From there they can travel via buses. We will send buses to transport them.”

Until the airport reopens, Bhutanese residing in Canada and Australia were asked to restrain from travelling.

However, he said that it was not viable for the government to send flights to isolated places where a few Bhutanese resides. “We won’t be able to send separate flights considering the huge financial burden to the government and individuals.”

For students, the government provided subsidy on airfare. The government also pays the airfare for patients returning home.

“If enough people are willing to return home, we can arrange the flights,” lyonpo said.

To bring home stranded Bhutanese from abroad, the government has organised 17 relief flights that has so far brought home 1,904 including students and those working outside.