BY ZURAH NAKABUGO, 25 AUGUST 2013
Uganda police concerned by the number of youth stranded in human trafficking rings abroad (file photo).
An estimated 250 Ugandans annually end up stranded abroad with human trafficking rings, a police report says.
Ugandan youths are trafficked to countries like China, India, Malaysia, Thailand, South Africa, France, Canada, Iraq, with many becoming victims of forced labour and sexual exploitation. Police says human trafficking is on the rise in Uganda due to poverty and lack of employment.
“According to statistics, every month, we get reports of over  Ugandans stranded seeking help. If the figure is multiplied in a year, it comes to over 250 Ugandans stranded abroad every year… ,” Moses Binoga, the coordinator for Anti-Human Trafficking said in an interview on Friday.
He cautioned people who want jobs in foreign countries to avoid dealing with unregistered companies promising them juicy jobs since they are likely to be conned out of their property and money.
The ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development has since released a list of registered and licensed companies allowed to take people abroad for jobs and another of unregistered, suspicious companies.
“I kindly request people to inquire with me on telephone No. 0715 411-677 or Mr Turyasiima on 0772496059 from the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, to know the licensed companies that have been authorised to take people abroad,” Binoga said.
Many local companies and some in the Middle East recruit Ugandans for domestic jobs in the Middle East.
“Ugandan housemaids in all the middle East are treated very harshly. Their passports are confiscated by their sponsors, they don’t eat the same food with their employers, they are not given medical care, work 24hrs without rest and are denied any interaction with any person outside their homes,” Binoga said.
Even when Ugandan maids realise they are being exploited, they can’t quit because laws in the Middle East don’t protect them. Most Ugandans, Binoga says, spend between six to nine months in camps before their sponsors give them air tickets to return.
“However, the governments in Middle East can also take a year or two without providing air tickets to people pending deportation because it’s not in their budget… .,” Binoga said.
Most illegal companies secure housemaid visas for people and deceive them that they would change to better jobs like teaching or engineering, hotel attendants, and supermarket workers when they reach overseas.
“When they refuse to do the work in their visas, their sponsors refuse to buy them return air tickets… ” he said.
Binoga said for prostitutes, “… they don’t have licences and they are employed by people with licences who force them to sleep with a variety of clients involuntarily… The clients don’t pay the prostitutes directly but pay their employers. Then the employers pay the prostitutes in kind like food and accommodation… ” Binoga said.
Binoga said government has renewed its crackdown on human trafficking in the country. Now, agencies involved in recruiting and exporting labour, and foreign individuals who wish to adopt children from Uganda, will have to meet more stringent requirements before they are allowed to take Ugandans to foreign countries to work, or children for adoption.
Binoga told a news conference recently that it was now mandatory for all clearing points in countries of destination, to have the same information about the labourers in a particular country of origin.
Foreigners, who plan to adopt children especially school going, will have to be cleared by the ministries of Gender, Labour and Social Development, Education and Sports and of Internal Affairs.
“These measures are aimed at controlling child trafficking, some children are taken as if they are going for sports or are adopted and they don’t come back; such cases are fraudulent adoptions and that is what we are fighting,” Binoga said.
For the last six months, there have been 47 reports of transnational human trafficking registered by police, involving more than 250 persons as victims. Majority of victims are females aged between 20 and 30 years.
Most are taken out of Uganda or brought to Uganda through fraud, deception, debt bondage and or false promises of lucrative employment. A coordination office to prevent trafficking in persons has been opened up at the ministry of Internal Affairs with a national task force comprising of officers from 15 government ministries, departments and agencies plus representatives of the civil societies.
The Special Investigations Unit (SIU) has been designated to spearhead investigations related to trafficking in persons.