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Suffering Migrant Workers: Ugandan MPs Denied Visas To Saudi Arabia

Hundreds of Ugandans leave the country daily for jobs abroad

The Saudi embassy in Uganda has denied Ugandan MPs on Parliament’s Committee of Gender, Labour and Social Development visas to the middle East country.

The lawmakers wanted to go to Saudi Arabia and investigate allegations into the poor working conditions under which migrant workers from Uganda are working.

The revelation was made by Dorcus Acen, the Alebtong District Woman MP during the plenary sitting, while responding to concerns raised by Sarah Opendi (DWR Tororo) who criticised the Gender Committee for failing to present before Parliament findings into allegations laid out in a petition presented before Parliament in July 2022 by migrant workers.

“And one of the issues that is being raised is that some of the officials from the Ministry of Gender who are supposed to handle this matter actually own or are related to people who own some of these companies. And that is why it becomes very difficult for them to be handled,” Opendi said.

In response, Acen who spoke on behalf of the Gender and Labour Committee admitted to receiving the petition but blamed the delay on presenting the report to Parliament for debate on the refusal by the Saudi Embassy to give the Committee members visas to go to Saudi Arabia and establish facts alleged in the petition by the migrant workers.

“We have the funding and the members of the Committee we were supposed to travel to Saudi Arabia and some of those countries to get details however, lawmakers were denied visas and that is something which we had discussion about today that we push it to you that if you have a way so that the committee can have a way of having proper information to help us make proper decisions,”Acen revealed.

Allegations of the denial of visas were further confirmed by Sarah Najjuma, the  Nakaseke District Woman MP, who doubles as Chairperson Gender and labour Committee stating, “It is true we were denied visas to go and do bench-marking in Saudi Arabia, but we are going to report back to the house. We apologise for not reporting back to the house on time, but as a Committee we are looking around for countries to benchmark from.”

However Speaker Among, criticised the Committee leadership for failing to bring to her attention the diplomatic incidence and revealed that she held a meeting with the Saudi Ambassador to Uganda and top of the discussions was the plight of Ugandan migrant workers in Saudi and the issue of visa denial to MPs will be resolved.

“One of the issues that we discussed with the ambassador this morning was the issue of the visas, that shouldn’t be a problem. Tomorrow we can process and the committee can be able to get further information,” said speaker.

Anthony Akol (Kilak North) asked the Speaker to ensure that officials at the Ministry of Gender explain how labour externalization companies are sending Ugandans to Saudi Arabia as casual labourers yet the Saudi Government outlawed the importation of casual services.

“When we talked to the embassy, they told us that the law doesn’t allow us to export casual labourers especially those domestic workers. So when the Minister comes to communicate on the condition of our people who are there, taken to those countries, I wish it is brought to our knowledge how those who aren’t supposed to be exported to these countries are allowed to do so,” he said.

Speaker Among also tasked the Ministry of Gender and Labour to explain the criteria used to license labour export companies, yet some of them don’t have the financial capacity to repatriate bodies of Ugandans who die while on duty, as per guidelines set by Government.

“We also need to know, how do you accredit people licenses the ones who are taking people out because most of them don’t even have capacity in case anybody dies, they don’t even have capacity to bring back the body. So we need first of all to know what criteria do they use to give those licenses themselves,” said the Speaker.

 

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