A toxic combination of desperation by young unemployed Ugandans ready to jump at any opportunity and the allure of well-paid jobs in far-flung corners of the globe have seen many of them end up in brothels as sex slaves or as domestic servants where some have been killed by cruel employers.
However, with attempts to streamline the labor export trade suffering a number of false dawns over the years, the Speaker of Parliament,Rebecca Kadaga, has partly blamed what she describes as
“big people in government” with labor export firms for the plight of many young Ugandans who end up in the hands of human traffickers. She said the increasing tide of young people flocking to foreign countries in search of jobs calls for the urgent creation of opportunities for them in Uganda.
Kadaga made the remarks during a meeting with a group of Catholic nuns at Parliament on Friday. The nuns had petitioned her over what they described as “disheartening reports of human trafficking”. Under their umbrella organisation Association of Religious in Uganda (ARU), the nuns were at Parliament to give a face to an insidious scourge and restore what the leader of the delegation, Sister Tereza Namata, labelled “our collective dignity as Ugandans”.
“Some of our daughters are trafficked abroad and forced to have sex with animals, while others are killed for organ transplant. For those lucky to return home, the trauma they have suffered incapacitates them and makes them social misfits,” Namata said.
The nuns called for a holistic review of the labor export policy to ensure that it upholds human rights of Ugandans seeking employment abroad, and also delineate punishment for those flouting it.
“What I can tell you is that a number of big people in government own labor export companies,” Kadaga noted.
This, she said, makes the streamlining and implementation of policies aimed at regulating the burgeoning labor export sector difficult.
“For example, when we (Parliament) stopped the export of domestic workers, the gender ministry went ahead and signed agreements with countries taking in our young people. We told them to give us the agreements to look at them, but they have failed to do so,” the Speaker said.
In early 2017, Parliament banned licensed labour exporting firms from taking Ugandan girls and women as maids to the Middle East after harrowing tales of abuse and sexual exploitation became a major news staple. At the time, Parliament gave a waiver to export those seeking employment in supermarkets as guards and drivers.
The desperate search for employment opportunities not with standing, Kadaga blamed gullibility on the part of Ugandans for ending up in the snare of human traffickers.
“You are driving and then you see, pinned on a tree, an advert for jobs in Canada. Really? There is need for advocacy to let people know that not everything is rosy out there,” Kadaga said.
Last year, a number of reports indicated that 48 Ugandans had died in United Arab Emirates alone, many of them committing suicide. With a young and fast-growing population rate that is not being matched with creation of jobs despite the best of efforts by the Government, many young people will continue taking a shot at jobs in countries where some before them have been abused or killed.