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Uganda to review labour export agreements with the Middle East 

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By Franklin Draku

Uganda is set to review its bilateral labour agreements with a number of countries, particularly in the Middle East, as cases of abuse of migrant workers continue to rise. 

A number of Ugandan migrant workers in the Middle East have continued to report cases of abuse by their employers and recruitment agents.

While meeting Mr Sanusi Tejan Savage, the Chief of Mission for the UN Agency on Migration in Uganda in Kampala on Tuesday, Ms Betty Amongi, the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development, said the continued reports of maltreatment of migrant workers, even in countries where bilateral labour agreements exist, was of concern to Uganda. 

She said her ministry has proposed a review of these agreements to bridge the loopholes.

Uganda currently has bilateral labour management agreements with Saudi Arabia, the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE). 

The agreements are meant to foster the overall safety and wellbeing of Ugandan migrant workers.

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Ms Amongi said the online External Employment Information System would also be scaled up to allow the logging in of complaints and tracking the responses. Currently, the system only has options for registered labour export companies to log in.

“This will greatly help us in tracing the complaints logged in and what action or inaction was taken,” she said.

She also revealed that government had agreed to deploy labour attachés to countries where Uganda has a huge number of migrant workers to improve the turnaround time in responding to distressed workers. 

She said Uganda government was working to sign bilateral agreements with other countries, including Qatar, Oman, Turkey, among others, where there is already a big number of Ugandans. 

She commended International Organisation for Migration (IOM) for having collaborated with the ministry to develop a pre-departure training curriculum for Ugandans destined to work abroad, and said the trainings have helped in preparing the workers to absorb culture shocks, religion difference and work ethic, among other parametres. She said this has a direct bearing on the how the workers progress at duty.

Mr Sanusi said the IOM would soon engage a consultant to critically analyse the implementation of the agreements with a view of identifying the gaps and recommending measures to enhance the safety of migrant workers.

He observed that IOM Uganda has had a memorandum of understanding with the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development since 2013 through which many undertakings have been implemented together to promote the safe and orderly migration of labour from Uganda.

“Currently, we are implementing the Promoting Ethical Recruitment to curb the risk of exploitation of Uganda migrant workers, while at the same time strengthening the capacity of the private recruitment agencies to ethically recruit migrant workers,” Mr Sanusi said.

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