The Ugandan government has been dragged to court for orders that would see licenses issued to labour export companies revoked and the labour export business banned in the country.
As unemployment continues to bite, thousands of Ugandans have in the past few years found their way to Middle East countries including United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Omar for employment opportunities but a number of them have complained of exploitation and harassment.
In a petition before the civil division of the High Court in Kampala in which government has been attached as a respondent, Ivan Bwowe, a lawyer says by giving labour recruitment companies under their umbrella body, the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies(UAERA) licences to send Ugandan workers abroad, government is legalizing human trafficking.
“The conduct of business by labour externalization companies licenced by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development carry all ingredients of the definition of human trafficking as per the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Act 2009,”Bwowe avers.
The lawyer says the agreements that the Ugandan agreement has always entered into with foreign governments to promote labour externalization has promoted human trafficking.
“The actions of the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development and members of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies continue to expose Ugandans to human rights abuse mainly in the Middle East at times resulting into death.”
He adds, “The actions of UAERA and government in licensing, monitoring and supervising of the labour externalization violate fundamental rights guaranteed under the Constitution, offend public policy on preventing trafficking in persons are contrary to the Employment act.”
The lawyer has in his petition that he says has been brought in public interest to protect the rights of workers abroad asked court to issue orders banning externalization of labour.
“An order of prohibition or permanent injunction restraining the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development from issuing or renewing licenses for labour externalization using the statutory instrument number 62 of 2005 of the Employment Regulations and Guidelines on Recruitment and Placement of Uganda Migrant Workers Abroad 2015,”Bwowe avers.
“An order restraining the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development from entering any memorandum of understanding with any foreign government to labour export or externalization without advise of the Solicitor General.”
The lawyer also wants court to declare that the continuous awarding of labour externalization licences and their renewal to the labour companies by government is illegal and encourages human trafficking and should be stopped.
The Executive Director of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agency (UAREA), an umbrella organization for registered export labour companies, Enid Nambuya said a number of Ugandans travelling for work in the Middle East don’t use authentic documents and on getting problems, they can’t be helped.
“Because of frustrations at home, women welcome any form of work available abroad but they are not proud of it. They, therefore, use falsified documents so their people back home don’t know the kind of jobs they are going to do in Middle East,” Nambuya said.
“They want to appear as though they are doing the best jobs in the world but if problems come, it is difficult to help them.”
Nambuya added that most Ugandans prefer going through individuals other than licensed companies to Middle East but end up being duped by these individuals.
The Ugandan government last month for the first time signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratization in UAE that will ensure that all Ugandans to the country go through right channels and are not mistreated.