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32-Year-Old ‘Battered’ Migrant Worker Seeks Shs69m For Treatment As Company Abandons Her

The Chief Executive Officer of Kyeyo Initiative, Kenny Olooka visiting Tumuhimbise at her sick bed in Mulago Hospital

A 32-year-old female Ugandan migrant worker is seeking 69 million Shillings to treat life-threatening injuries she sustained after being battered by her employer in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Harriet Tumuhimbise, a resident of the Sembabule district was externalized to Saudi Arabia in June 2021 by Zion Worldwide Placements Limited. She signed a two-year contract as a House Maid on February 9, 2021, with her employer, Fuddah Mohammad KH Asiri.

Early this year,  four months before the end of her contract, a video clip showing Tumuhimbise being carried in a helpless state was circulated on social, prompting action from Kyeyo Initiative Uganda, a rights advocacy organization.

The Chief Executive Officer of Kyeyo Initiative, Kenny Olooka, told URN that a preliminary investigation indicated that Tumuhimbise was beaten by her employer breaking her back, neck, and left hand resulting in body paralysis.

Olooka explained that upon her repatriation on February 11, 2023, Tumuhimbise was evacuated to Mulago Hospital where she was admitted up to March 3, 2023, following an agreement between her family and the company that externalized her.

According to the agreement, Zion Worldwide Placements Limited was to meet the victim’s medical and welfare bills, including that of her caretaker. Also, Tumuhimbise was to be availed wheelchair for her movement because she couldn’t physically support herself yet.

But Olooka says that the company flouted the agreement with Tumuhimbise which led to her premature discharge from the Hospital. Tumuhimbise’s discharge letter required her to report for physiotherapy reviews on March, 10, April 5, and April 26. But she failed to comply due to financial constraints.

Olooka accused the management of Zion Worldwide Placements Limited of failing to honour their agreement to provide the requisite facilitation to aid Tumuhibise’s travel from Sembabule to Mulago Hospital for the scheduled medical reviews.

In his letter dated March 24, 2023, Ooloka wrote to the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Gender, Labour, and Social Development which licenses and regulates external recruitment companies to compel Zion Worldwide Placements to shoulder Tumuhimbise’s health bills.

Saudi Arabia signed a five-year Bilateral Labour Agreement with Uganda In 2017. The agreement expired in December 2022 and at first, Uganda declined to renew the agreement following widespread human rights violations of migrant workers.

But after fresh negotiations with the government through the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, the two countries renewed the agreement in March with emphasis on improved security, welfare, and remunerations of the migrant workers. But Olooka argues that the Ministry of Gender has not made a copy of the agreement public for scrutiny despite several recommendations from rights groups in the country.

Among the proposals included the establishment of the Migrant Workers Social Welfare Fund, emergency repatriation plan, medical insurance, diversification of labour markets beyond the Middle East, and revision and improvement of the existing bilateral labour agreements.

The Minister of State for Labour, Employment, and Industrial Relations Col. Charles Okello Engola said that the government is yet to understand why Ugandan migrant workers are tortured, maimed, and to the extreme killed in the Gulf Countries.

In 2022, of the total 84,966 migrant workers that were externalized to the Middle East, at least 77,914 migrant workers went to Saudi Arabia out of which 55,643 of them deployed as housemaids.

In 2021 the Uganda Human Rights Commission – UHRC reported cases of mistreatment or abuse of Ugandan migrant workers doubled to 421 from 214 the previous year.  The report faulted users of unregistered or fraudulent entities and job opportunities to trick their victims.

Kyeyo Initiative Uganda participated in repatriating six bodies of Ugandan migrant workers reportedly tortured to death by their employers in Saudi Arabia Between January and March this year.


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