Government through the Minister of State for Gender and Culture, Peace Mutuuzo has opposed a proposal by Mukono Municipality MP, Betty Nambooze to impose a ban on the exportation of labour to the Middle East.
Last week, while submitting on the floor of Parliament, Nambooze highlighted a number of challenges and inhumane treatment mated on Ugandans who are working in the Middle East, especially the girls and women that are hired as house maids.
Nambooze noted that these are subjected to modern day slavery despite some being exported by registered labour export companies.
However, on Thursday, Minister Mutuzo told legislators that the proposed ban won’t be the solution to the challenges brought about by labour exportation. Instead, it would expose more Ugandans to trafficking, she said.
The Minister said that the programme of labour externalization was not introduced to encourage Ugandans to go abroad but rather to establish an alternative to trafficking for Ugandans who out of their will opt to leave the country in pursuit of employment abroad.
“The government took cognizance of risks associated with individuals being placed abroad by traffickers. However, the government was also aware that people cannot be forcibly stopped from seeking work abroad,” the Minister told the House.
Citing Article 29 (2) (b) of the Constitution of Uganda, she said every Ugandan enjoys a right to enter, leave and return to, Uganda.
“The solution to the challenge of traffickers therefore lies in introducing a safe, orderly, formal and regulated pathway to employment abroad,” Mutuuzo said.
The Minister said the ban would cause the country to lose USD 600 million which accounts for about 50 percent of total in-word remittances in Uganda.
“We have examined the proposal to have the programme banned and wish to remind you that the Ministry imposed a ban on the externalization of domestic workers on 22nd January 2016 with the objective of stopping migrant workers from getting into hostile domestic working conditions as well as using the period of the ban to strengthen measures for protecting Ugandan migrant workers abroad”.
Mutuuzo said however, that the unintended consequence of the ban was that trafficking thrived.
“For example, the Ministry does not clear workers to Oman. However, today there are over 40,000 Ugandans working in Oman. The Ministry is therefore hesitant to impose a ban. This is because there are still strong pull factors like relatively higher wages in the Middle East,” Mutuuzo said.
“Furthermore the migrant workers in the Middle East are contributing substantially to their families through construction of houses and payment of school fees,” she said.
However, in a procedural matter, Busiro East MP, Medard Sseggona requested Oulanyah to institute a select committee to investigate accusations made by some people that have left the country. This was after he noted the Minister’s statement had made no mention of the exploitation of Ugandan workers working abroad.
The Deputy Speaker promised to give a ruling on the matter on Tuesday next week. It is then that he will rule on whether a select committee will be instituted to investigate the matter.