The government of Uganda has finally returned over 156 Ugandans who had been stranded in the United Arab Emirates.
Most of the girls were victims of illegal trafficking under the pretext of getting jobs through agents after being made to pay huge amounts of money.
The permanent secretary for the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Agreyy Kibenge said that those who took advantage of the Amnesty and are reporting to the Al Awil immigration center are being facilitated by the Ugandan Embassy in UAE to travel and will be free to regularize their movements to the UAE.
Over 1,500 have so far reported at the center to take advantage of the amnesty which expires at the end of this month.
The number of illegal immigrants is vast and the government can rescue those stranded only if they report at the Al Awil center in Dubai from where the government can register them and be able to intervene.
Earlier today, Minister of State for Labour, Employment and Industrial relations Col Okello Charles Angola addressed a press conference on the Externalisation of labor and Repatriation of Ugandans from the Middle East.
The Externalisation of labor program was launched in 2005 to open up space for Ugandans to access job opportunities abroad under a formal system run by the government of Uganda.
The major destination countries are Saudi Arabia, UAE, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, Iraq, and Somalia.
Charles Engola said the Externalisation of labor had registered notable benefits including;
Job creation: over 300,000 employment opportunities have been occupied by Ugandans with wages averaging UGX. 1,000,000.
It has also grown into a formidable source of Foreign Direct Investment with annual remittances of about UGX. 3.4 trillion from migrant workers in the Middle East.
However, Engola stressed a number of challenges such as Human trafficking due to inadequate information about formal channels of getting employment abroad, and the exploitation of Ugandan migrant workers by illegal Ugandan recruiters who are residents in the host countries through false promises for better pay.
The illegal recruiters place these workers in illegal shelters commonly known as ‘Biyumba’ under poor hygiene conditions.
Lack of an efficient and reliable rapid response system for protecting migrant workers. Workers are sometimes denied their travel documents, communication gadgets, or even medical care.
According to Engola, The Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers) Regulations, 2021, introduced a number of measures to address some of the challenges mentioned.
The measures include;
Restricting ownership of recruitment companies to only Ugandan Nationals.
Requiring all foreign recruitment agencies that present a job order for verification to the Ugandan Mission Abroad pay a fee of thirty dollars, for every vacancy on the job order.
The fee from the above measure is supposed to strengthen labor activities in Uganda, the establishment of accommodation shelters for Ugandan migrant workers abroad, and provision of consular services including deployment of labor Attaches, increasing the penalties for offenses under the regulation from three months to five years imprisonment among others.
Engola added that Officials in the Ministry have conducted monitoring visits to various destination countries, during which, useful knowledge has been gained about challenges and opportunities for Ugandan migrant workers.
To date, the Ministry has signed three Bilateral Labour Agreements with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and a Memorandum of Understanding with the UAE.
However, the agreement with Jordan was suspended following unending cases of abuse of domestic workers’ rights without redress from the Jordan government.