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MPs seek an Evacuation Fund for exploited migrant workers

Balancing the need for employment opportunities with safeguarding the rights and dignity of those working overseas is highly recommended (Courtesy photo)

In a recent session of the Committee on Gender, Labour, and Social Development, Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, Member of Parliament for Kira Municipality in Uganda, proposed the creation of an evacuation fund to assist Ugandan migrant workers facing mistreatment or stranded situations abroad. The suggestion came during a discussion of the report on Elivanson Nabatanzi’s petition, filed in May 2022, seeking the return of her daughter from Saudi Arabia, where she had been sent to work as a housekeeper by Prime Linkages Limited.

Ssemujju cautioned against a blanket ban on labor exportation, citing Uganda’s high unemployment rates. Instead, he advocated for the establishment of an evacuation fund along with the creation of small offices in the cities where migrant workers are employed. These offices would address issues as they arise, offering a more practical and targeted approach.

The MP stressed the importance of addressing the specific cases of mistreatment rather than confronting recruitment agencies as a whole. He highlighted that out of nearly 200,000 Ugandan girls in Saudi Arabia, a small fraction faces abuse. By focusing on those cases, Ssemujju argued, the government can avoid potential consequences, such as mass repatriation if host countries like Saudi Arabia, Oman, or Dubai decide to send Ugandans back.

Ssemujju acknowledged the challenges faced by domestic workers, emphasizing that they often work in private homes without established standards. He urged Parliament to set standards for recruitment agencies while simultaneously addressing the root causes of vulnerability that lead individuals to seek employment as domestic help.

Drawing attention to the lack of consulates or embassies in Oman, Ssemujju underscored the importance of a swift evacuation process and the need for diplomatic presence in locations where Ugandans are employed. This comprehensive approach aims to protect the rights and well-being of Ugandan migrant workers abroad.

As the proposal for an evacuation fund gains traction, it reflects a nuanced and pragmatic strategy to address the specific concerns faced by migrant workers, balancing the need for employment opportunities with safeguarding the rights and dignity of those working overseas.

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