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In this interview, Ms. Tshering Wangmo, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer within the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration at the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs in Bhutan, discusses the advantages to the peer-to-peer approach and future training plans for her department.

In February 2019, MIEUX received a request for assistance from the Royal Government of Bhutan. Located in South Asia, Bhutan is landlocked between two of the world’s most populous countries: China and India. The regions of India close to the border are largely underdeveloped, prompting many Indian nationals to seek employment opportunities as manual labourers on construction sites in Bhutan, where they earn relatively better wages.

As construction is one of the growth engines of the national economy, Bhutan has strategically placed industrial plants and special economic zones along its Southern border with India. These zones give manufacturers easier access to the Indian markets and cross-border workers easier access to the area. In principle, foreign workers cannot be employed in Bhutan without a work permit, but in practice, foreign day labourers work irregularly all along with the border areas with India.

Given this situation, the Department of Immigration within the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs requested assistance from MIEUX to receive training in the areas of border management and document security. The newly-acquired knowledge would enable the department to schedule subsequent training for their staff, who at present do lack specialised training curriculum in the matter, especially front-line and border officers.

This is MIEUX’s first Action in Bhutan and 20th in the region overall. To cover the needs of the request, MIEUX counted on the experience of three European experts from Lithuania, the Netherlands and Slovenia, who were deployed between July and October 2019. For this occasion, we asked MIEUX’s focal point, Ms. Tshering Wangmo, Deputy Chief Immigration Officer within the Visa Division of the Department of Immigration at the Ministry of Home and Cultural Affairs her views about MIEUX’s Action and what main advantages she saw in comparison to other programmes.  

Among all existing initiatives, why did you request MIEUX’s assistance?

We requested the MIEUX’s assistance because it provided need-based and demand-driven assistance to enhance capacity in immigration and border management. MIEUX focused on collaboration and engagement to ensure full partner country ownership which is imperative to the success of any programme. Furthermore, MIEUX had a great track record of providing tailor-made training sessions addressing the priority need of their partner country through a peer to peer expert facility.

What is the benefit of the MIEUX peer-to-peer approach?

The main benefit of the MIEUX peer-to-peer approach I see is that the trainings are facilitated by people who not only have sound theoretical knowledge but more importantly have years of experiences in the area of immigration and border management. These lived experiences add immense value to learning through the exchange of real cases, anecdotal incidences, among others. The facilitators and participants also bond faster given that they come from similar backgrounds; this creates an effective learning environment. 

What are your plans for organising in-house training sessions for your staff in the near future?

To start off, the Department has plans to cascade the Document Security training to all our front-line officials through in-house training sessions in a phased manner starting 2020. The Department is planning to train every immigration official in document security, with periodic refresher training on document security as an additional measure. Furthermore, basic training in document security will also be built into the induction program for new recruits, ensuring long-term sustainability.