By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/ Umoja Standard.
Kyambogo University: On Friday, the Permanent Secretary- Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social development Mr. Aggrey Kibenge stressed that there are streamlining ‘The Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad) Regulations, 2021 to ensure safety and favorable environment for Ugandans abroad saying that he is aware of some atrocities reached to some Uganda’s migrant workers.
Mr. Kibenge mentioned that they are to engage countries where they have bi-lateral relations like Saudi Arabia and others to improve negotiations, establish government joint technical team between both countries, ensure only accredited foreign agencies receive Ugandan workers with recognition of the embassy and initiation of a 24hr calling centers where migrant workers can communicate from.
“Some Ugandans opt for opportunities abroad due to some push/pull factors not limited to high unemployment levels here, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence, being desperate, high wages compared to Uganda, good welfare and economic systems expected and others”. He stated.
He mentioned that between 2016-2022, Uganda externalized 235,113 through licensed companies with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia taking over 188, 171, followed by United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Iraq, Jordan and others.
Mr. Kibenge revealed that globally labour externalization earns Uganda about US$ 1.4M with Kingdom of Saudi Arabia only remitting about US$900M adding to non- tax revenue where by oversees-based Recruitment companies pay a specified amount to Ministry of Gender labour and Social development as job orders before being referred to domestic companies to source workers.
“From December 2021, government has earned UGX. 18.5bn from the former, collected by Uganda Revenue Authority as consolidated fund. This is as a result of license application fees, foreign job attestation fees, fines for late renewal of contracts and others and we are projecting to collect UGX.25bn annually”. Said PS Kibenge.
He however stated that they are still battling with some vices like human-trafficking which is one of the deadliest factors facing the sector saying that Uganda has licensed only about 20,000 workers in Kingdom of Saudi Arabia but ‘you’ll realize that there are over 100,000 workers there.
“Violation of human rights in destination countries is rampant particularly with domestic workers especially girls being impeded to access basic needs like medical care, working for long hours, lack of physical diplomatic representatives in some countries where Ugandans work and limited man power where we have a big number of Ugandans workers and others”. Mr. Kibenge.
Prof. Elly Katunguka the Vice Chancellor stressed that it is fundamental for responsible authorities to ensure that the sector is streamlined so that it is not compromised.
He sought that the line ministry would now be looking at negotiating better bi-lateral agreements to have the educated population find opportunities abroad as opposed to how it is currently, dominant of semi and unskilled labour force.
Prof. Katunguka added that it is also viable to have serious laws and policies enacted and formulated respectively to help iron out some gaps in the current regulations.
As one of the panelist at a Public Lecture Hon. Muwanga Kivumbi a legislator representing Butambala Constituency and shadow Minister for Finance brought to light a fresh testimony of some Emirates in UAE where slavery is still legal in the 21st century.
“I visited one of the Emirates in UAE and found a secured chunk of land filled with tents and rich people would come and point on a Uganda-just as a commodity to own, then one would pay US$5000 to fully own”. Hon. Kivumbi.
“Labour externalization which embeds human-trafficking is mostly conducted by some of the figures who are highly connected to security apparatus so curbing these needs extra fueled interventions”. He added.
He mentioned that ‘with all the negatives associated to the sector, labour externalization cannot stop without solving core economic impediments here. This cuts across to even education system producing graduates who are not fit for innovations and other practical work but made for white-collar jobs.
“As you (Ministry of Gender Labour and Social Development) look for UGX.80million to address issues of labour externalization at hand, I would seek that it goes into securing safe shelters abroad where workers with issues may habour”. Hon. Kivumbi.
Baker Akantambira the Chairperson of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) emphasized that Ugandans will forever be subjected to labour externalization is the core issues like youths’ unemployment, economic stability and others are not well addressed.
“Youths constitute a high percentage of Uganda’s population but most of them are unemployed. If there is no lasting solution for them, then we are heading for the worst”. Said Akantabira.
He added that there is need for one law and policy that fully govern labour externalization sector as well an independent ministry such that related issues can quickly be expedited.
A dataset released by the Gender ministry last year indicated that migrant workers totalled 9,967 in 2010, with majority in Iraq, Afghanistan and United Arab Emirates. This has grown three-fold, increasing to 28,233 by the end of April 2021.
The government data shows that at least 98 percent of migrant workers are in the Middle East, numbering 140,402. Most are employed as casual labourers, with only 0.2 percent holding professional jobs.
A further 1.8 per cent work in semi-professional placements.