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Are some Ugandans abroad turned into slaves?

By Moses Mulondo, Moses Walubiri

Added 17th August 2016 09:43 AM

The media has been awash with tales of how Ugandans abroad are suffering exploitation.

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The media has been awash with tales of how Ugandans abroad are suffering exploitation.

PIC: Labour minister Hebert Kabafunzaki says recruitment companies have been tasked to ensure migrant workers are issued with a return air ticket

KAMPALA - Parliament has resolved to carry out a probe into reports of Ugandans turning into slave workers under dehumanizing conditions overseas.

The media has been awash with tales of how several Ugandans who innocently went to work in Middle East countries were turned into slave workers, suffering exploitation like poor remuneration, non-payment and sexual harassment.

The MPs, one after another, passionately expressed disappointment that government has not done enough to protect Ugandans from being sold into slavery.

Jinja West MP Moses Balyeku said, “Kenya and Tanzania have signed treaties and memoranda of understanding with those Middle East countries. Even housemaids from their countries working in the Middle East have documents from their governments.

"Our people are suffering because our government has no understanding with those countries. Our government only cares about understanding on militarism and borrowing.”

Ajuri County MP Hamison Obua explained that whereas the national employment policy focuses on exporting professional workers, the minister’s statement centered around exportation of unprofessional workers.

Obua wondered why they have not seen government punishing companies that fail to comply with regulations the ministry issued.  

“The ban by government on exportation of maids was implemented seven months ago after parliament had passed a resolution calling for it," said Isingiro South MP Alex Byarugaba.

"But the haemorrhage still continues. Ugandans continue to be taken to various Middle East countries as slave workers. The rate of unemployment is so high in the country.”

Bududa woman MP Justine Khainza said had heard reports of many Ugandans working in the Middle East countries who had been turned sex slaves and whose passports had been withdrawn so that they could not return.

On her part, Adjumani woman MP Jesca Ababiku proposed that thorough sensitization of Ugandans should be done by government about the danger of going for job opportunities in the Middle East.

In the same spirit, Masindi woman MP Jalia Bintu urged government to urgently do whatever it can to rescue more Ugandans who are still held captive in the Middle East under dehumanizing conditions.

Workers’ MP Arinaitwe Rwakajara also weighed in on the discussion. He told of an iincident when he was in Iraq and officials there asked him whether we have a government in Uganda to allow the high rate of trafficking of Ugandans.

Buliisa MP Stephen Mukitale said instead of negotiating bilateral agreements with the Middle East countries, the Ugandn  government abdicated its role to the profit-making companies that are exporting Ugandans.

The MPs were responding to a statement presented by the labour minister Hebert Kabafunzaki who assured parliament that his ministry is implementing various measures to ensure Ugandans taken to work abroad are not exploited.

The minister said as part of the additional measures they have issued, companies have been tasked to ensure migrant workers are issued with a return ticket and not one-way one.

Kabafunzaki said they have also resolved as a ministry that local or international recruitment agencies should not withhold workers’ travel documents.

They are also engaging Middle East countries to eliminate the requirement of migrant domestic workers to secure the consent of their sponsors for exit visas to leave the country.

Following a motion that was moved by Masaka municipality MP Mathias Mpuuga who argued that what was being discussed was purely a matter of modern-day slavery and therefore the need to be thoroughly investigated, the speaker Rebecca Kadaga directed the parliament committee on gender, labour and social development to expeditiously investigate the matter and report back to parliament.

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