A family from Kawempe Division in Kampala has petitioned Parliament over a labour export company, Prime Linkages Uganda Ltd, which they accuse of forcefully keeping their mentally ill daughter, Annet Nakagulire in Saudi Arabia.
While presenting the petition before the Committee on Gender, Labor and Social Development on Tuesday, 26 July 2022, the family said their daughter was recruited October 2021 but that she was allegedly tortured.
“She was sick but was arrested and detained in a prison in Saudi Arabia on grounds that she was mad. I wonder why my daughter would be imprisoned for four months when she is said to be mentally ill,” said Elivanson Nabatanzi, Nakagulire’s mother.
Nabatanzi said efforts to get her daughter back home have been futile and that the company has instead preferred threats to helping the family get back Nakagulire.
“All we got from them is embarrassment and being chased away from their premises telling us that they are not concerned and that we can do whatever we want,” said Nabatanzi.
The family said the owner of the company who they could only identify as Florence is not bothered about their plight and call on the committee to investigate her. “Even now Florence is sending me messages; she is asking why we reported her to Parliament,” said Lusambu Karim, a brother to Nakagulire.
Lusambu added that they have sought help from the security agencies and the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development to no avail. While at the ministry, Lusambu said officers seem to connive with the owners of Prime Linkages instead of helping their sister.
Lusambu said after several attempts to locate Nakagulire, it was discovered that the Ugandan Consulate in Saudi Arabia is running a shelter where they are keeping Nakagulire and 10 other Ugandan girls under un healthy conditions and unwilling to assist them return home.
Hon. Charles Bakkabulindi
Workers’ Representative, Hon.Charles Bakkabulindi said that ever since the Gender Ministry introduced the US$30 charge per labour export, officials in the ministry have shifted their focus from defending Ugandans to business.
“I have talked to those working in Arab Emirates; I know the suffering they are going through. I know that the ministry has not helped them,” said Bakkabulindi.
Legislators noted that there was no political will from the ministry and government at large to check the rampant torture of Ugandans working abroad.
The Committee Chairperson, Hon. Flavia Kabahenda wondered why it has taken government years to formulate a labour immigration policy which she said would streamline sector.
“We are now relying on bilateral agreements and to us those are not helping; they are not binding. Why is it taking government long time to produce a policy?” Kabahenda asked.
She said countries with such policies have set standards on conditions for one to work in certain countries mitigating manipulation by some labour companies.
“In Kenya their policy on external labor does not allow illiterate people. Their latest policy says you should be a professional,” Kabahenda said.
Kabahenda added that the committee will revisit reports of both the Ninth and 10th Parliaments on labour export which she said would inform the Nakagulire inquiry.
She pledged that the committee will do whatever is possible to assist Nakagulire and other girls held in Saudi Arabia, to return home.