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Inside govt plan to streamline labour export after more Ugandans suffered abuse in Middle East

Ugandan migrant workers wait for clearance at Entebbe International Airport in 2018. PHOTO/COURTESY

Ugandan migrant workers wait for clearance at Entebbe International Airport in 2018 (PHOTO /Courtesy)

The government is proposing a new law on labour migration and the protection of migrant workers.

Charles Engola, Minister of State for Labour, Employment, and Industrial Relations says that there is an urgent need for a law with a regulatory and monitoring mechanism to ensure that external laborers from Uganda work under favorable conditions.

According to Engola, the new law will ensure that shelters are established in the countries where Ugandans go for external labor and have officials in the countries who will monitor to ensure they are in better working conditions.

Flavia Kabahenda, the Woman MP Kyegegwa district said that the existing regulations such as The Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad) Regulations, 2005, and the Anti-trafficking in persons law contradict each other. She says that there is a need to have a uniform law dealing with labor internally and externally.

Kabahenda adds that the new law should include clauses that force employers to have social security for the migrant workers and social protection for the family of the migrant laborers.

The proposal comes at a time when many Ugandan migrant laborers have been complaining about poor conditions and mistreatment by their employers in Saudi Arabia, Oman, and other countries. Many Ugandan migrant workers have also been arrested and deported from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations.

In 2020, Uganda signed a Memorandum of Understanding- MoU with Saudi Arabia, which spells out guidelines for recruiting companies, contracting companies, and employers. Ugandans recruited under this arrangement are paid around 900,000 Shillings a month.

Ezra Mugisha, the Executive Director of Horeb Services Uganda Limited says the government has to reform the bilateral agreement with Saudi Arabia to ease the work of labor recruitment agencies and ensure the safety of Ugandan labor migrants.

He adds that whereas his company takes migrant laborers to many countries, Saudi Arabia has an alarming rate of human rights violations against migrant laborers all of which go unpunished because of the bilateral agreement Uganda signed that has no consequences if violated by Saudi Arabia.

Phoebe Kukiriza, a returnee from Saudi Arabia who worked as a maid said the government has to ensure justice for those who die in the line of duty as migrant laborers. She says the government has to start making post mortems so that the cause of the death is established.

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