The National Council’s (NC) concern on the rising number of illegal immigrants based on the Legislative Committee’s report must receive attention and priority of the relevant authorities. It will have huge repercussions on the country’s sovereignty and security if left unattended.

It is reported that an estimated 20,000 day-workers such as maids and babysitters are working in the border towns everyday without work permits. The report also estimates that DANTAK employs 3,000 illegal immigrants while IMTRAT is estimated to hold 2,000 workers without work permits.

However, these figures are only estimates and it is believed that the total figure could be higher.

The preamble of the Immigration Act states: “To ensure that the Kingdom remains free from illegal immigrants and to retain control on the immigration of foreigners for the security and prosperity of the nation…”. This clearly resonates with the legislative intention. And adequate provisions were incorporated in the Act.

And yet, nine years after the implementation of the Act, which was enacted to address this very issue, we see this grievous problem on the rise. It’s time to do some serious inner soul searching on why we are failing. The answer may yet again be weak implementation, which over the years has been pointed out by observers.

It has become urgent to implement the rule of law without exceptions in the country. And this applies even more so when it concerns immigration.

During the opening ceremony of the 7th session of the first Parliament on May 20, 2011, His Majesty The King said: “Today, as I have said before, our immediate and foremost duty is the success of democracy. That is our foundation for the future success of Bhutan. But democracy can only flourish if all Bhutanese uphold the rule of law…”.

As a small nation, we must get our priorities right and addressing the illegal immigration issue is priority number one. An increase in the population as a result of illegal immigration puts more pressure on our public services and can also increase the rate of unemployment, among others.

We must address this issue now before it is too late.