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Govt, recruitment agencies on the spot as Spire exposes rot in Uganda’s labour export industry

Kampala, (UG): The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and private external recruitment agencies have been left exposed for their dirty doings in aiding the trafficking of Ugandans to go for work in the Middle East where they are subjected to inhuman exploitation and torture among other grievances.

The unexplainable exposure has come through a campaign dubbed #LabourExportExhibitionUG started by cartoonist Dr Jimmy Spire Ssentongo on X (formerly known as Twitter).

The campaign which has now lasted for over a week unearthes the rot in the Ministry of Labour and how they conspire with owners of the labour export companies to manipulate Ugandans seeking for work abroad only to reach there and be subjected to human torture by the Arabs.

Reports indicate that as of 2023, remittance to Uganda grew to US dollars 1.21 billion boosted by recipients from labour exports to Middle Eastern countries.

Over 600,000 Ugandans are doing odd jobs in the Middle East as reported by the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA). Most of them are working either as cleaners, waiters/waitresses, drivers, construction and factory workers or guards.

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The #LabourExportExhibitionUG Campaign

The popular cartoonist, author, lecturer, and columnist with the observer who has now made a name as an online activist through his popular hashtag activism has left no stone unturned with this labour exhibition challenge in which his followers and concerned individuals expose the impunity, rogues in the labour industry with the hope of reminding the Labour Ministry of the occurrences happening, perhaps without their knowledge.

Ugandans, especially those who have been to Arab countries for green pastures( Kyeyo) pinned the labour exportation companies for their mischievous traits, recklessness, and paying a deaf ear in ill-starred circumstances.

The pain our brothers and sisters go through is perhaps unbearable but we have to endure it to make ends meet. Many of them especially the beautiful girls have been coerced into sexual activities by the company bosses just to have them qualify to be exported and compelling them to skip relevant medical tests in the interest of making it to the Arab countries.

Some of the exhibitors noted that suffering starts from here, weeks or days before exportation. They are made to live in unsanitary places, feed once or go hungry on just water under the pretence of teaching them how to behave while with the sadistic Arabs.

Others decried the poor working conditions in the Middle East which included confiscation of their passports upon arrival in the Middle East, poor treatment from their bosses, going months without salary, feeding on leftover food and at worst mysterious deaths.

“What’s challenging is that most of these companies connive with television and radio stations to advertise their works intently aiming at winning trust from the vulnerable and desperate Ugandans seeking employment, and then after robbing they disappear and only surface through a different name to push their agendas ahead” an exhibitor who preferred anonymity, noted”.

Govt responds

The Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, through its Commissioner Dr. Lawrence Egulu, speaking of the exhibition via his account on X asserted that the Ministry is solely committed to serving the interests of the Ugandans.

”If any domestic worker is travelling to any country other than the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, that person is being trafficked, and the company or individual that’s deploying her is a trafficker. Alert the Mglsd_UG,” Dr. Egulu said on Jan 25, 2024.

Parliament intervenes

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The labour exportation challenge has since seen many political leaders pick interest in it. Ibrahim Ssemujju (Kira Municipality) has called for the establishment of an Evacuation Fund, whose funds will be used by Gov’t to evacuate migrant workers who face inhumane mistreatment while employed abroad, warning that a total ban on labour exportation would create a crisis given the high unemployment rates in the country.

Speaking on the floor of Parliament, the Leader of Opposition, Joel Ssenyonyi urged MPs to follow the grotesque stories that are being told by the external labour workers that are being exposed on social media to understand the ordeal these workers go through while working abroad and elucidate on the matter.

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