Legislators have chastised the government for failing to manage and mitigate the gross human rights violations and inconsistencies involved in the exportation of labour especially to the Arab countries.
Whilst acknowledging the necessity for Ugandans to travel out in search of employment due to high unemployment in Uganda, the MPs said that some Ugandans were being trafficked as slaves by so-called recruitment agencies while others were working under harsh conditions with meagre pay.
Some MPs also blamed government’s reluctance to manage the issue on the fact that some government officials own the agencies and recruitment firms engaged in the trade.
The legislators were responding to the State Minister of Labour, Hon. Mwesigwa Rukutana’s statement on the status of implementation of the directives issued by Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to labour recruitment companies to facilitate repatriation of Ugandans stranded in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia during the plenary sitting on Wednesday, 17 February 2021.
Hon. Asuman Basalirwa (JEEMA, Bugiri Municipality) said that however much Parliament investigated the labour exportation trade, the results will always be futile because senior government officials are complicit in the trade.
“I challenge the government through the Minister to scrutinise some of the contracts for employment between the employment agencies engaged in labour exportation and the Ugandans who take up jobs with them,” Basalirwa supplemented during the sitting chaired by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga.
He also said that over time, there are always cases of people being forced to work for little or no pay, turned into slaves and mistreated while the recruitment agencies make a killing from the trade.
MP Jesca Ababiku (NRM, Woman Adjumani) suggested that the list of the labour exporting agencies and their proprietors be presented on the Floor of Parliament for legislators to successfully tackle the irregularities that arise from the Ugandan youth who are taken abroad to work.
“It is absurd to hear that the safety and self-preservation of the Ugandans taken out of the country is not priority of the recruiting agencies
Rukutana asserted that the Ministries of Labour and Foreign Affairs have an inter-ministerial task force to look after the people who are recruited for work out of the country.
He, however, conceded that the ministries are financially ill-equipped to follow up on the contracts between the recruiting agencies and the areas of employees for the exported labour as well as helping those Ugandans who encounter difficulties in their employment.
He refuted claims that the agencies recruiting Ugandans to work abroad are owned by government senior officials.
“This is not the first time these baseless claims are springing and I urge the MPs who say so to substantiate,” he said, adding that, “I will, therefore, present to you this list of the agencies engaged in the trade”.
Rukutana nonetheless acknowledged that there have been cases of human trafficking of Ugandans and gross breach of contracts which the ministry has endeavoured to manage as they arise.
The minister pledged better management of labour exportation which he said will be aided by better funding towards the sector.