Uganda cracks whip on human trafficking

When 24-year-old Mumbejja Mulwana's contract at her workplace in the capital Kampala expired last year, she had no option but to approach one of the middlemen in the labour export market to try and get her whichever job was available in one of the Arab countries.

Equipped with her passport, Ms Mulwana approached the middleman who suggested she pays about $200 (Sh20,648). Within a week she had already been taken for a medical examination. 

"One day, I received a call from them (exporters) who told me my visa was ready and that I had gotten a job in Dubai," Mulwana told Xinhua. With a group of other girls, she was booked into a taxi from Kampala to the Uganda-Kenya border district of Busia.

The girls had been told that they would travel by air from Kenya to Dubai. "At the border, we were told to get out of the taxi and travel on bicycles to cross into Kenya unnoticed. When we crossed the border, we boarded another taxi to the Kenyan capital of Nairobi," she added.

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In Nairobi, Mulwana said they were hidden in a downtown warehouse until they finally boarded a plane to Dubai. While in Dubai, the girls were taken to different offices where their employers later picked them to go and work as housemaids. Mulwana said all went well until the male boss started demanding sexual favours.

"He would come back home when the wife had gone to work and force me into sexual activities. This went on for some months until I reported to the Police in Dubai," she said.

Mulwana said she did not get enough help from the police which instead decided to arrest her, accusing her of breaking the contract with her employer.

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While in detention, Mulwana was able to contact a Ugandan government legislator who was able to contact some colleagues in Dubai.

"I was finally released, deported and banned from travelling to United Arab Emirates again. But I am happy I am back home and will never repeat the same mistake of being taken by middlemen to work abroad," Mulwana who returned to Uganda last month said. Mulwana's story is not isolated.

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Some girls have been returned home dead. Uganda has one of the youngest population in the world with over 70 per cent of its population below the age of 35 years, according to government figures, while many of the youths do not have employment.

This situation has forced some youths to seek employment in the Middle East. Traffickers have taken advantage of the situation.

In the wake of several youths being trafficked out of the country in the hope of getting jobs, government has started cracking a whip on individuals and companies involved in the labour export market.  Early this month, police intercepted 12 girls who were being trafficked out of the country through Entebbe International Airport headed to Saudi Arabia.

The Anti-Corruption Unit, a state-owned unit charged with fighting corruption, announced in August that it was investigating 30 labour export companies "for allegedly fleecing Ugandans who are seeking employment opportunities abroad".

The Unit said labour export companies have so far refunded over 87 million Uganda shillings (Sh2.4 million) received from complainants whom they failed to externalise, while six bodies of externalised persons who died in the Middle East have been repatriated and four trafficked girls and women have been brought back home.

SEE ALSO :Uganda cracks whip on human trafficking

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UgandaHuman TraffickingUnited Arab Emirates