Gen Odongo: Govt committed to ending human trafficking

Gen. Jeje Abubakhar Odongo, Minister of Foreign Affairs (C), Hon. Sam Kutesa, Patron of Uganda Council on Foreign Relations (UCFR) & former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2nd left), Amb. Francis Katana Executive Director Uganda Council for Foreign Relations (Left), Gen. Ivan Koreta, Chairman-UCFR ( 2nd Right) and Prof. Renaud Dehousse, President of European University Institute (R)

Gen. Jeje Abubakhar Odongo, Minister of Foreign Affairs (C), Hon. Sam Kutesa, Patron of Uganda Council on Foreign Relations (UCFR) & former Minister of Foreign Affairs (2nd left), Amb. Francis Katana Executive Director Uganda Council for Foreign Relations (Left), Gen. Ivan Koreta, Chairman-UCFR ( 2nd Right) and Prof. Renaud Dehousse, President of European University Institute (R)

KAMPALA — Minister for Foreign Affairs, Gen Abubaker Jeje Odong has said, there is need to curb unprecedented practices such as human smuggling and trafficking, as well as perceptions and negative attitudes against migrants that often lead to prejudices which encourage racism and xenophobia.

Odong said this while launching the Research Report on Migration Governance in Uganda at Fairway Hotel in Kampala.

“Whereas the above situation provides opportunities, it also presents unprecedented challenges such as human smuggling and trafficking, as well as perceptions and negative attitudes against migrants that often lead to prejudices which encourage racism, xenophobia among others, Gen Odongo said.

“I therefore welcome this research study which focuses on migration governance with a view to ensuring safe passage and benefits for men and women involved in cross border mobility, including as well their families and communities, he added.

At the regional and continental level, he said Uganda has actively participated in the adoption of several protocols to remove barriers to the free movement of persons, goods and services.

He cited the issuance of the EAC e-passport, saying the the development is expected to boost free movement of people in the partner states.

At the national level, he revealed that a number of bilateral agreements have been concluded by Uganda with receiving countries and that several laws and policies have been passed in order to harness the benefits of migration.

He Odongo said government will study the recommendations and will work jointly with the different stakeholders to consider how to address them, in line with the mandates of the relevant MDA’s.

Presenting the findings lead researcher Grace Galabuzi, a PhD Student at Makerere University Institute for Social Research revealed that the report analyses migration as an important area for Ugandan’s policy-making and identifies potential new directions in Uganda’s approach to the foreign policy and diplomatic dimensions of migration policy and makes recommendations for future policy development.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Gen Jeje Odongo

”Uganda has come to be defined by its generous refugee hosting model, a novel, internationally recognised permissible approach to receiving and integrating displaced people. But its troubled history has also led to the displacement of Uganda natives across the globe, creating a sizeable Ugandan diaspora in Africa,” he said adding; ”More recently, economic challenges at home have motivated a concerted effort to systematise labour migration or labour export as a strategy for human resource management and economic development. So, while Uganda has been hailed as having a permissible emigration model, particularly in relation to the absorption of subjects of forced displacement due to political instability in the region, the government has also identified migration as an important source of employment and economic development.”

He said that the report focuses in particular on the cross-border dimensions of international migration and draws into focus the migration diplomacy capacities of governments to secure the well-being of Ugandan citizens.

”In particular, labour migration is seen as a potential solution to youth unemployment and as a source of remittances. A closer look at migration governance in tandem with the relevant migration. Diplomacy activities is therefore warranted. This means a focus on migration governance that involves the activities of both state and non-state actors involved in these processes with the aim to ensure safe passage and benefits for individuals involved in cross-border mobility, their families and communities,” Galabuzi added.

Hon. Norah Bigirwa Nyendwoha, the Chairperson of Parliamentary Committee on Foreign Affairs (L) Amb. James Mugume, former Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, (C) Amb. Ibrahim Mukiibi

Recommendations In The Report

1. The most immediate task relates to the ongoing effort to complete the Labour Migration Policy to provide a definitive expression of the government’s commitment to the labour migration project and to help articulate the principles, values and norms that guide migration governance for the country. An overarching labour migration policy
would give clear direction to the development of a suitable labour migration regime. The policy should be the outcome of consultation with all key stakeholders, country-specific and context-sensitive, and be aligned with international standards, continental frameworks, regional instruments and best practices.

2. The legislative work on Bill 30, the reform of the Employment Act, 2005 has lagged and the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labour and Social Development on the Employment (Amendment), 2019 has reiterated its call for the need to move forward. The Committee recommended that the mover of the amendment and the Ministry complete the harmonisation of their positions that began in March 2021 so that the bill can move forward.

3. The government should enhance migration policy development capacity by concentrating policy coordination in the inter-ministerial National Coordination Mechanism. This would raise its profile within the bureaucracy and give it distinctive powers to manage migration governance at the national level. This would cover areas of policy development such as migration and development; migrant return and reintegration; the protection of migrant workers in Uganda; addressing brain drain; and identifying critical skills and attracting migrant labour to those sectors in Uganda.

4. The existing institutional structures responsible for labour migrant regulation are subject to a fragmented framework. Moreover, serious capacity deficits exist regarding the External Employment Unit (EEU). The government should ensure an appropriate level of financial and technical support for the EEU given the demands being put on it by the expansion of the labour externalisation programme. Another key existing office is the Diaspora Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its mandate needs to be clarified and it should be resourced sufficiently to undertake the task of attracting and integrating returning Ugandans.

5. Government support for research, generation of labour migration data and analysis of migrant workers from and into Uganda’s labour market is essential as is the development of tools to ensure greater access to existing government data for policy research by academics and civil society. Part of that generation of data would mean including a labour migration module in the Labour Force Survey.

6. The development of a Labour Market Information System (LMIS) will facilitate the collection of labour market data including data on international and labour migration. Currently, this is done through the National Population and Housing Census, the National Household Survey and data collected by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social
Development (MGLSD) on migrant workers. There are real limitations in this mode of data collection. There is also data collected through work permit processes and on international migration but it is not generally analysed. The government should also consider open-source access to the existing labour market and migration data.

7. The Government should address the protection needs of Ugandan migrant workers in other countries and regions of destination outside of the Middle East by setting up or strengthening up consular offices in every country where there is a sizable number of Uganda migrant workers and empower the office to maintain close contact with the
migrant workers. These would be responsible for monitoring the duration of migrant worker contracts, renewals, extensions, terminations and return home if necessary.

8. The government should undertake an assessment of the framework of the contractual agreements that migrant workers enter into with the private employment agencies to ensure that workers’ rights (especially as regards working conditions and the existing labour, welfare and social security systems) in receiving countries are protected.

9. The Government of Uganda should ensure that Private Employment Agencies (PEAS) in both Uganda and the receiving countries facilitate the release and repatriation of Ugandan migrant workers, some of whom are vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual exploitation due to their work arrangements, and investigate and prosecute PEAS that recruit Ugandans on the basis of false promises and subject them to forced labour and prostitution abroad.

10. Ugandan workers’ organisations and NGOs should be involved in the dissemination of human rights information to migrant workers while they are still in the pre-departure stage. This information should include education on their rights as Ugandan citizens, the mechanisms in place to protect and defend their rights, and opportunities for social and economic integration.

11. At a regional level, the Ugandan government should commit to speedy ratification, domestication and implementation of regional instruments, particularly those relating to free movement protocols, including the:

a. Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market

b. The EAC Regional Strategic Framework for e-immigration (2014)

c. EAC Youth Policy (2016).

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