The government’s overseas employment programme is a good idea. What happens to those who go abroad through the programme is a different story altogether.

Recently, some 50 Bhutanese working as cashiers and sales associates for Quality Hyper Market in Qatar had issues with their employer. Forget increment on time that they were guaranteed after three months of recruitment, they do not even get salary on time.

The Bhutanese who are working in Qatar have also to struggle with medical expenses, which actually should be covered by employers according to the agreement reached between the agents approved by the Bhutanese government with Qatari employers.

Even after 18 months, the Bhutanese working under Qatari employers have not received increment. They also do not get paid for extra hours they work for the company.

The trouble that the Bhutanese who are working in Qatar are facing today is serious. Even as they wish, they cannot even come back because their passports are seized by their employers. What rule allows employers to get hold of employee’s passport? How was this possibility even settled between the Qatari employers and the Bhutanese agents? And on what grounds?

Employers seizing foreign employee’s passport is tantamount to committing the most heinous crime that humanity should cringe under the skins. It reduces workers’ worth and dignity to nothing. Where such reality exists, comfort and security of foreign workers is in danger.

Besides the labour ministry, there are eight agents that the government has approved to send Bhutanese for employment abroad. It is, therefore, upon the labour ministry to call the agents responsible to answer. That the ministry has not received any complaints from the Bhutanese working in companies abroad under overseas employment programme ought not to be an excuse. We deserve more than such incompetence from the ministry.

What is indeed shocking is that the labour ministry has suspended some Bhutanese overseas agents for sending Bhutanese job seekers to work abroad without the approval of the ministry and there has been no follow up since. What the Bhutanese working in Qatar under difficult conditions and their family back home need are answers.

Although the government’s overseas employment programme is a laudable idea, it lacks adequate safety measures for the Bhutanese jobseekers. What we see is that the government has signally failed to develop the necessary measures.

It is now upon the government and the ministry of labour in particular to ferret out the truth and guarantee the safety and well-being of Bhutanese people working abroad under overseas employment programme.