By Aaron Sseruyigo
Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development Permanent Secretary, Mr Pius Bigirimana has told journalists that government is investigating reports that Ugandan women seeking employment as domestic workers in Oman, are being trafficked and sold as slaves.
“You have heard about it, I have also heard about it and we are investigating,” he said, according to a local news daily.
Human Rights Watch explained in a 68-page report released 2016 that because of Oman’s immigrant labor laws, tying employment to a specific family’s sponsorship, many foreign employees – particularly female domestic workers – face exploitation and abuse at the hands of their Omani employers and have little means of recourse to protect themselves.
The report said that at least 130,000 female migrant domestic workers work in Oman, and alleged that the neighboring United Arab Emirates (UAE) serves as a human trafficking hub where recruiters sell migrants to families that then illegally transport them into Oman.
HRW investigators interviewed 59 female migrant workers for the report, and many detailed episodes where they were beaten, verbally abused and forced to work as much as 20 hours a day while being denied fair pay.
Last week, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development revealed that over 10,000 migrant workers from Uganda had been cleared to work abroad in the Financial Year of 2017/2018.
This was during the 2nd Annual Social Development Sector Review, 2018 held at the Golf Course Hotel, Kampala under the theme “Changing the Paradigm: Addressing determinants of vulnerability for improved livelihood outcomes.”
Mr Pius Bigirimana’s remarks come on the heels of a press conference by the National Organisation of Trade Unions, where two girls purportedly rescued from Oman were paraded before journalists to narrate the plight of Ugandan girls who are being trafficked and sold as slaves.
According to Ms Hasifa Walugambire, whose video went viral on social media last week, she was lured by a Kenyan lady only identified as Gladys, who conned her of Shs4 million to work as a banker in Oman, but when she arrived at the airport, she was taken to an office where she was told that she had been brought to work as a domestic worker.
“I would wake up at 4am and sleep at 2am. I would sleep for only one hour sometimes without food and I got fed up. When I refused to work, I was tortured and returned to the shop where they got me,” she said, adding that the shops sell Ugandan girls as both slaves and sex workers.
Ms Adikini Teddy Takia, also a victim, said she was lured to Oman through a friend called Susan who connected her to an agent based in Mbale, eastern Uganda, promising her a job as a waitress.
She was trafficked together with two other women through Malaba and flown through Jomo Kenyatta airport after their passports were confiscated.
Upon arrival at Muscat in Oman, they were told that they were going to work as domestic workers.
“I worked in a family of seven. I was subjected to domestic work like cleaning the walls and roof of the house without pay. I got disgusted and refused to work. I was tortured and returned to the shop where I was beaten,” she said.
The Ministry earlier informed the general public that their are companies/individuals who are not among those licensed to recruit and export labour in Uganda. They included;
i. Akra Ltd, located on Sentema Road, Lubaga Division, Kampala;
ii. Miracle Ltd, located near Old Kampala Police Station;
iii. Rock Business Agency, Mini Triangle Zone, Makerere II Parish, Kawempe Division, Kampala;
iv. Sak Recruitment Service, Bombo Town Council; and
v. Global Skills International Ltd, plot 148, Kibuye, Entebbe Road, MK Building.
vi. Job Centre, located at MM Pub Building, Kabusu:
a) Managing Director – Mr. Ndebone Paul, Tel: 0772619229
b) Operations Manager – Mr. Joel Kalyango, Tel: 0701619229
vii. Mary, Tel. No. +254-722758403
viii. Jimmy, Tel. No. 0757-535223
ix. Umar, Tel. No. 0700-830318
The Daily Monitor Contributed to this Report.