Although there is an increasing number of posts in different social media forums on fake agents offering employment overseas, labour and human ministry officials said that besides sharing the post on media to alert job seekers and their families, it was difficult to trace the fake agents.

Department of employment and human resources’ overseas program officer, Ugyen Tashi, said that although the ministry follows up on the case, most agents’ contact details provided online are fake making it difficult for them to take action.

Ugyen Tashi said despite repeated announcements in media asking jobseekers to be vigilant and those overseas vacancies available posted online are illegal, many take the risk.

“Most jobseekers go abroad without seeking any advice or informing the ministry,” he said. “The ministry is notified only after they reach the destination country and are faced with problems.”

Ugyen Tashi added this makes it difficult for ministry to repatriate Bhutanese since every country has their own rules and the process becomes lengthy.

Most fake agents post about overseas employment with attractive salaries and free accommodation available in different countries including India and  the United States of America.

He said such agents would be booked under the law as per the Labour and Employment Act of Bhutan 2007. Article 211 of Chapter XIII, states, “A person shall not act as an employment agent unless the person is licensed.”

“When such cases of fake and unauthorised operators come to light, the ministry would take action depending on the degree of offense committed,” Ugyen Tashi said, adding the action ranges from warnings to litigation in the court of law.

Ugyen Tashi said the ministry is yet to take action on the two consultancies involved in sending 14 Bhutanese women illegally to Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Oman in the last one month to work as housemaids.

Sergyel education consultancy has illegally sent 10 Bhutanese women to Kuwait while Drupthob education consultancy sent four women to UAE and Oman.

“As soon as we received the complaint, the ministry investigated the case and informed the Royal Bhutan Embassy in Kuwait,” Ugyen Tashi said. “The embassy was successful in rescuing the 13 women and is pursuing the matter with UAE embassy to release the last candidate.”

Of the 14, although, nine are back to Bhutan, one is yet to arrive and another three are still in the UAE exploring for employment opportunities after their former employment agents released them.

“Our first priority is to bring them back to Bhutan safely. Once they are back, we’ll take action against the consultancies. We’ve also sent a letter to the education ministry to look into the case to take action.”

The licensed overseas employment agents should also follow the procedures laid out in the regulation on Bhutanese Overseas Employment Agent 2013. The agents must seek approval from the ministry right from announcing overseas vacancies to the final placement.

To ensure the youth are not victimised, the ministry has been issuing public notifications regularly on such scams and fake operators. All jobseekers are advised to apply for overseas employment only through the ministry’s licensed eight agents to ensure that the jobs advertised are authorised by the ministry.

Today, there are 1,150 males and 2,644 females working in the Middle East countries, Japan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, and Australia on overseas employment. They were sent through the labour ministry and registered employment agents to work in the tourism and hospitality, constructions, education, Geo-fitness,  retail and sales, IT, finance and accounts, and general sectors.

Yangchen C Rinzin