Immigration: Project DANTAK and IMTRAT have agreed to bring their non-uniformed employees under labour and immigration laws the government has pointed out to the National Council (NC).

During its 17th session, the Council submitted that the government work with DANTAK and IMTRAT to streamline their non-uniformed foreign workers under prevailing immigration law. The home ministry, departments of immigration and labour, and the Royal Bhutan Army conducted a consultative meeting on August 30 this year with DANTAK and IMTRAT to mainstream their non-uniformed employees under the country’s laws.

Accordingly, DANTAK and IMTRAT agreed to bring non-uniformed employees under the purview of the labour and employment Acts and immigration law.

NC chairperson, Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga, while thanking DANTAK and IMTRAT for their support and cooperation labeled the progress of issue as one of the NC’s greatest achievements. “We would like to thank the project DANTAK and IMTRAT for agreeing to streamline their non-uniform labour under the labour and immigration laws,” he said.

Enrolling of non-uniformed foreign workers and their dependents in DANTAK and IMTRAT has also begun as per the government’s response.

Dasho (Dr) Sonam Kinga however said that the government should work out with DANTAK on the required number of non-uniform labourers as its requirement would have gone down since the Department of Roads has taken up more road works. “The government must work to finalise on the number of DANTAK’s non-uniform personnel as per the work plan and work sites,” the chairperson said.

The labour ministry is also working to revise the foreign workers ceiling. With regard to bringing all the foreign day-workers under the purview of the labour and immigration Acts, the labour ministry has stopped issuing work permits for maids and babysitters.

Meanwhile, plans to address the issue of shortage of office infrastructure, transportation and  shortage of manpower are also underway. The immigration department is constructing a head office in Thimphu, which will be completed in 6-12 months. In Phuentsholing, the regional immigration office is being renovated, following which the space crunch will be resolved.

The construction and renovation of head and regional offices will also address the shortage of service counters.

In terms of manpower shortage, the department has already recruited and deployed 50 officials to Phuentsholing, Samdrupjongkhar, Paro and Gelephu. In January 2017, the department will recruit 78 more personnel.

To ease transportation problems, the immigration department has proposed to the finance ministry for six additional pool vehicles. “But the government in its response has not mentioned whether it will approve the budget for procurement of vehicles,” legislative committee chairperson Sonam Wangchuk said.

The department in its response to the government stated that it had no budget to fund training of immigration officials. There was also no budget to purchase a device to detect fake Indian voter identity cards, which foreign workers use to enter Bhutan.

“With the lack of specialised equipment and training, it is difficult for immigration officials to identify the genuine ones,” the response stated.

On this, the House resolved to write a reminder to the government reiterating the urgency to address these shortcomings. “When it comes to resolving issues pertaining to sovereignty and security of the country, it cannot be brushed aside in the sidelines for lack of budget,” the chairperson said.

The council will follow up on the  outcome of the ongoing work in the next session.

Tempa Wangdi