Human quest for economic survival often compels many to migrate or seek employment and asylum far away from home. Often many become victims of human trafficking, labour externalisation, forced labour, at times slavery and even death.
Uganda has the best refugee policy globally: of resettlement, provision of land for agriculture and building houses, employment and doing business such as citizens, provision of education and health facilities, and basic food items. But many youth have fallen victims of migration gone haywire due to bogus promises of better life.
A total of 2,099 people in Uganda have been trafficked due to economic stress and bogus promises of jobs and scholarships, according to a report issued by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 2022. The report notes that foreign countries people from Uganda are trafficked include Egypt, Jordan, Kenya, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and United Arab Emirates among others.
Internal Affairs ministry Permanent Secretary, Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu, while launching the report at Silver Springs Hotel on July 19, said police have investigated 1,200 cases, of which 559 were sent to the Office of Director Public Prosecutions, 348 cases are already in courts. Kampala leads with 167 cases, followed by Mbale 44, Rakai 38, Kamwenge 31, Mubende 30, Kyotera 29, Mityana 27, Mamisindwa 26, Sembabule 23, and Tororo 21, among others.
The study gathered testimonies from Rhino Camp, Nyamwanza, Nakivale, Urusinga, Kyaka I & II and slums of Kampala, where millions of Refugees live in settlement camps. Majority of refugees in Uganda are South Sudanese, Congolese, Rwandans, Burundians, Somalis and Eritreans. They are taken care by United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, International Organisation for Migration, among other plethora of organisations and Government of Uganda.
However, many people in Isingiro, Kamwenge, Kyegegwa and Terego districts complained bitterly that refugees are pampered more than Ugandans who are extremely poor! Actually many have expressed desire to register as refugees. They say refugees get posho, beans, cooking oil, school fees, clothes, shoes, tarpaulin and iron sheets among others on top of money monthly.
In Arua and Terego there are many human traffickers who promise employment and scholarships. Initially, they provide transport, accommodation, and meals to the gullible youth. Then move them to Arua City from wherever they were picked and taken to Kampala. Once the youth are in their custody and care, threats begin that those who try to escape shall be in trouble and will have to refund all expenses incurred on them thus far.
Many youth ended up in brothels in Arua and Kampala cities, being detained by others who pay the traffickers. Others end up as house girls and boys in homes and their lives will depend on the generosity of the owner of the home.
Likewise, many locals in Kamwenge say there are traffickers who come from Kampala, hire rooms in the town and recruit many youth, by promising scholarships and take them away.
Meanwhile, labour externalisation is going on unabated. There are 410 firms registered at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to recruit, train labour and export to the Middle East countries, according to Commissioner of Employment Services, Mr Lawrence Egulu. What started as a recommendation by the President as a short term measure to curb youth unemployment, in 2005 has gained momentum.
You pay money to firms to process the employment, secure passport, visa and air ticket. Then you are trained as a good maid, how to use domestic appliances, wash clothes and on the day of departure to mainly Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates, all are decked in Muslim garbs as if going for pilgrimage to Mecca when they exit Entebbe Airport, regardless whether you are Christians! Off they go to earn about Shs1.2m per month.
Others have come back safely after two years to invest the little money. Some, however, suffer mistreatment by the family members where the work! Many came back with injuries inflicted on them by employers.
Human trafficking, labour externalisation, violation of human rights by employers in Uganda and abroad will, unfortunately, continue.
Uganda, endowed by nature with plenty of natural resources such as water, minerals and high potential of agro-mechanisation, has, unfortunately, more than 30 percent of its population wallowing in abject poverty! God must be wondering why people are fleeing such an endowed country to look for opportunities in the desert of Middle East!
Martin Okumu, National Coordinator Research and Policy, ANT political party.