The Government is preparing to repatriate more than 500 Ugandan migrant workers stranded in the Arabian Peninsula countries of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman among others.
Betty Among Akena, the Minister of Labour says the government is in advanced stages to repatriate the migrant workers who have complained of rampant torture and inhumane treatment by their employers.
She says some of the migrant workers have approached the Ugandan Embassies for rescue. Several of them have shared video or audio clips with their families illustrating their ordeals.
The affected workers include those who were lawfully externalized as domestic workers by the Government through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and those trafficked by the different private recruitment organizations.
In the UAE capital, Dubai, the Ugandan immigration centre has already recorded complaints from 200 domestic workers, and 300 others in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose employers reportedly confiscated their passports to deny them avenues to return home. It is not clear when Government will finish assessment of the workers for repatriation.
Under section 66 of the Employment Act, the Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad Regulations 2005, and 2015, a migrant worker is licensed for two years, but Among pointed out that the employers violate the provision by denying some of the workers exit visas.
The Government’s preparations come at the back of several petitions to Parliament from the concerned families through their representatives to push the Government to repatriate their relatives who are being mistreated by their employers thus risking their lives.
In July 2022, the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among directed the Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development led by Flavia Rwabuhoro Kabahenda, also the Kegegwa District Woman Member of Parliament to fast track the welfare of the migrant workers and recommend appropriate intervention to the Government.
During an interview on Monday, Kabahenda disclosed that the Committee gets numerous daily distress calls from the affected families seeking expeditious repatriation of their loved ones trapped by lack of travel documents.
Annually, statistics from the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development indicate that at least 28,000 Ugandans seek household jobs in the Middle East due to poverty, unemployment, domestic violence and family breakdown among others.
According to the Uganda Human Rights Commission – UHRC, 2021 report 28 Ugandan migrant workers, majority of whom are women, died in the different Middle East destination countries where they were serving as domestic workers.
On Friday last week, religious leaders of different faiths held a national prayer service at Kololo Independence Grounds in Kampala and asked the Government to address the vulnerabilities amongst Ugandans to stop the migration of workers seeking greener pastures overseas.