On Friday at 11am, the chairman of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), a bloc that merges all certified labour externalization companies, shockingly announced the immediate shutdown of operations in the country.
UAERA Chairman Baker Akantambira made the announcement while addressing the media at Africana Hotel.
He said the business has deeply been affected by Coronavirus pandemic after governments across the world suspended travels, yet labour export had been embraced as an employment opportunity to thousands of Ugandans who directly and indirectly benefited from the scheme.
Todate, over 165000 Ugandans are employed in Middle East countries through this labour export arrangement.
Statistics indicate that the annual remittances from migrant workers in the Middle East alone into Uganda had grown to over $700 Million domestically.
The program has also been contributing direct employment opportunities to over 4,000 Ugandans through the 200 Licensed Labour externalizing companies, several pre-departure training institutions and other numerous opportunities through back and forward linkages with sectors such as hotels, Airlines and transport.
In revenue terms, the sector has been contributing huge Non Tax Revenue to government agencies through processing of passports, VISA fees (income to other countries, Interpol charges (98% of the Interpol Letters are from Labour recruiting companies, Bank charges and Vaccination payments against yellow fever of 100,000 per person and now the recently introduced COVID-19 PCR Certificate fee.
This translates into billions of shillings for over 5,000 migrant workers that are externalized every month.
However, most of the licensed recruitment companies have closed shop, suspended operations due to rent, salary arrears and other operating costs in their places of operations after they spent the bigger part of the year without working and this has directly affected over 4,000 direct employees of these recruitment companies and their dependents.
Whereas government announced the reopening of the airport on October 1, the Ministry of Gender however, thwarted efforts of labour firms to resume business.
Ministry of Gender claims that consultations are ongoing with many stakeholders at different levels on how to provide clear systems at a time the world is still battling the pandemic.
Ministry of Gender spokesperson Frank Mugabi told this website that after the consultations are done, government will introduce SOPs which all the labour companies must adhere to as business resumes while ensuring safety of human beings.
“But for them, they think since the airport is open, it is time the business resumes which government has denied,” Mugabi said.
But the prolonged closure ignited concerns of illegal export of labour.
Shockingly, since the airport reopened on October 1, there have been cases of human trafficking witnessed at Entebbe Airport.
For example, 31 ladies destined for the Middle East were intercepted by the Aviation Police on 12th October 2020.
On Wednesday October 15th October 2020, another group of 44 ladies were also intercepted as they were being trafficked to the Middle East.
UAERA’s Chairman Baker Akantambira said that these and many more cases of human trafficking that could have not been documented are happening because the industry is under closure.
But who are the Traffickers?
This website, has learned that human traffickers are highly connected to officials in government and are protected while engaging in this illegal business.
Without mentioning names, an official at INTERPOL who spoke to this website, said they are investigating a section of high-ranking government officials linked to promoting labour export on black market.
“They work through proxies. They lay back and provide all the supporters to see that human beings are put on plane to their destination in the Middle East.”
A separate source said these officials collaborate with their associates in many ministries including Gender to cripple down the legal labour export so as they benefit from the black market immigrations.
“Many of them hide under the COVID excuse. They suffocate licensed companies so that they use their illegal firms to take labourers abroad at a very high price,” a source said.
But Gender Ministry spokesperson Mr Mugabi dismissed this an allegation.
“Don’t link an illegality to the ministry. The ministry deals with only legalities and anything criminal goes to Uganda police,” Mugabi said.
Mr Mugabi however, admitted that his ministry has received a number of human trafficking case, a criminal matter that has been forwarded to Interpol for action.
“If Gender Ministry hadn’t put legal regime, there you could blame us. That is why we encourage all Ugandans to go through licensed companies by the Ministry of Gender. And by the way even when these licensed companies engage in criminality, we come out and suspend them. You saw what happened to Middle East Consultants,” Mugabi explained.