Government urged to protect Ugandan migrants

Government urged to protect Ugandan migrants
A man holds a sign during a protest against the Israeli government's plan to deport African migrants, in Tel Aviv, Israel April 9, 2018.

The government has been asked to protect Ugandan migrants especially those who are working in inhumane and degrading conditions in the Middle East.

Sarah Farah, the acting Chief of Mission at the International Organisation for Migration in Kampala, says that while Uganda is home to many migrants, the situation is not so rosy for the millions of Ugandans abroad. She says that something needs to be done to ensure that Ugandan migrants are treated with dignity, wherever they are.

“Something needs to be done to ensure that Ugandan migrants are able to live lives of dignity abroad. So many of them are still faced with problems like xenophobia while some are not even paid,” Farah said.

Vivian Oryella, an officer in charge of protection of migrants and refugees at the Office of the Prime Minister says that the government needs to provide enough information on where Ugandan migrants can seek support in case they are faced with any kind of problems abroad.

Oryella adds that more needs to be explained since government benefits from the hard work of migrants through remittances and investments. Central Bank data indicates that Uganda on average receives remittances in the excess of three billion Shillings annually.

Ali Abdi, the acting UN Resident Coordinator says that UN agencies need to work with both the government and labour export companies to streamline the sector. He says that government needs to fix the challenges faced by migrants both in Uganda and abroad.

Abdi suggests that government should sign more bilateral agreements with other countries to increase the chances of people being protected. Uganda has only signed bilateral agreements with two countries the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.

Currently, 117 labor export companies are licensed by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development. Over 100,000 Ugandans are estimated to have been taken to the Middle East by various companies.

Lawrence Egulu, the Commissioner for Employment Services in the Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development says that while the government has tried to ensure that the security of Ugandan migrants by signing bilateral agreements, some companies beat the system. He says the ministry is going to continue closing companies that do not follow the regulations.

Last month, the labour ministry shut down ten labour export companies for contravening the law. Three of the companies were permanently closed while seven had their license suspended and are undergoing review. Egulu says they are actively carrying out investigations about companies with fake Interpol letters.