By Anne Mugisa
A stream of foreigners are being smuggled into the country and illegally employed without work permits, Immigrations and Foreign Affairs officials have revealed.
Uganda’s embassies are not issuing that many work visas, but many of the concerned foreigners come in mainly under the guise of visiting friends and relatives. The so called friends and relatives who devise the trick to dupe the system then employ them as “expatriates”, the officials said.
This was at the biennial conference of Uganda’s High Commissioners and Ambassadors held in Kampala this week. The officials complained that the work permit and work visa regulations are being flagrantly violated by the foreigners.
Some of the officials said that some of these “expatriates” are employed in hotels, factories and others engage in other petty work.
They called on the government to devise means of eliminating loopholes that are exploited by the illegal immigrants but also to increase the numbers of immigrations workers to border posts so that the practice is minimised.
According to Immigrations, this is part of the whole big illegal Immigrants problem which is pausing a big challenge to Immigrations Department and the Police.
The Director of Immigrations, Anthony Namara, asked the Government to increase the immigrations workers and send some of them as immigrations attaches in the foreign Missions so that they could vet some cases.
He said that before one tries work in the country, they should have acquired a work visa before they leave their country. Even members of the East African community need to have work permits though their will be issued free.
In 2009, the Internal affairs ministry had introduced a US$2,500 (about sh4.7m) fine against cross-border passenger transporters who are caught bringing illegal immigrants.
Then Immigrations Spokesperson Eunice Kisembo (deceased) said that would force transport companies to always scrutinise clients’ travel documents to ascertain immigrations status instead of focusing on the money.
“We are executing these regulations in line with the required standards of the International Civil Aviation Organisation. However, she added that the measure would also cover road and sea transporters,” she said.
On the joint East African tourist visa, Namara said that its launch is expected on January 15, 2014. He explained that this visa is for tourists to the three countries and will not replace the other types of visas.
He also said that the Government is also changing its visa to make it more secure so that forgeries could be easily detected. “We have had cases of forged visa,” he said.
“So a lot of security features which I cannot reveal now will be included to make it harder to forge."
The Ambassadors asked the Government to review the Visa policy to conform to the reciprocity rules. Ambassador David Etuket noted that Uganda is charging very little money for its visa yet when Ugandans are going elsewhere, they are charged exorbitantly.