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Labour export halted, what next for Kyeyo girls?

By Glorias Musiime

Added 20th October 2020 03:04 PM

Some company owners have closed their offices due to rent and salary arrears and other operating costs, having spent seven months without recruiting workers.

Labour export halted, what next for Kyeyo girls?

Since the reopening of the airport, about 77 young girls have been intercepted by aviation police at the airport being trafficked to the United Arab Emirates.

Some company owners have closed their offices due to rent and salary arrears and other operating costs, having spent seven months without recruiting workers.

The Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), an umbrella body of labour export firms, has suspended operations with immediate effect.

Baker Akantambira, the agency's chairperson, has advised migrant workers and those with related issues to contact the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development for clarification.

Addressing journalists at BMK House in Kampala, Akantambira said the association was forced to respond to the labour ministry's recent statement that they (ministry) was still reviewing the current suspension of externalisation of labour over COVID-19 concerns.

"This should be subject to the fulfilment of the COVID-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs) put in place by the Government and other authorities in the respective countries of destination," the document reads.

Akantambira said the labour ministry is to blame for taking decisions without engaging labour companies directly or through UAERA, yet the firms are the key stakeholders in the sector.

"Whereas the suspension of externalisation of labour was inevitable, given the prevailing conditions globally, the current move by the ministry to individually undertake measures directly affecting the labour company is disturbing," he said.

Akantambira said even when recruitment companies were contacted to put SOPs in place, which was done, the ministry did not consider what these companies are going through and did not try to monitor the SOPs put in place.

Externalisation of labour has been the fastest-growing sector, providing opportunities for domestic workers in the Arab countries, especially through 200 licensed recruitment companies in Uganda.

According to the UAERA document, more than 165,000 migrant workers are beneficiaries and working in the Middle East through these recruitment companies.

OUTCOMES

Enid Nambuya, the managing director of UAERA, said about 4,000 people who have been directly employed by the recruitment companies have lost jobs due to closure of businesses.

Some company owners have closed their offices due to rent and salary arrears and other operating costs, having spent seven months without recruiting workers.

She called on Government to reopen labour companies, with SOPs observed, saying the closure is silently fuelling human trafficking as it has been witnessed since the airport was re-opened on October, 1.

Since the reopening of the airport, about 77 young girls have been intercepted by aviation police at the airport being trafficked to the United Arab Emirates.

MINISTRY SPEAKS OUT

The ministry said the slight delay in reopening of externalisation of domestic workers was because the Government would like to put in place additional measures aimed at protecting the welfare, as well as rights of Ugandan domestic workers abroad.

UAERA BITTER

The Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies said government's proposed phase reopening of the sector is as good as extending the suspension, after all, none of the concerned parties is consulted.

The association's chairperson, Baker Akantambira, said: "We appeal to the ministry to effectively engage us and labour recruitment companies to collectively find sustainable solutions that will ensure the industry functions," he said.

For complaints and consultations about migrant workers, Akantambira advised the public to consult the gender ministry in the office of externalisation of labour unit.

He also urged all partners to seek further information from the ministry, Ugandan embassies as well as other government agencies.

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