During the meeting, the officials noted that there are over six million nationals from the region working abroad. They noted that the workers face similar challenges such as lack of access to health care, delayed payment or non-payment of wages, physical torture, mistreatment, confiscation of personal and travel documents, sexual harassment and long working hours.
The lack of coordination
among government agencies makes it difficult to address the issues affecting
migrant workers, Labour officials from the East and Horn of Africa-EHOA region have
This came up during a
regional meeting convened by the International Organization for Migration under the theme “Identifying Opportunities for Migrant Worker Health Inclusion into
Labour Migration Governance in EHOA” at Lake Victoria Hotel, Entebbe involving Labour
officers from Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda and South Sudan.
During the meeting, the
officials noted that there are over six million nationals from the region working abroad.
They noted that the workers face similar challenges such as lack
of access to health care, delayed payment or non-payment of wages, physical
torture, mistreatment, confiscation of personal and travel documents, sexual harassment
and long working hours.
Hillary Talemwa, the Head of the External Employment
Unit in the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, said that it is
difficult to address the concerns of migrant workers including the illegal body
organ trade because it requires the involvement of several ministries such as
foreign affairs, health and justice and Labour in Uganda and the countries
where the labourers are deployed.
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An estimated 250,000 Ugandans migrant workers are stationed
mainly in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Talemwa says that information
from the Bank of Uganda shows that the migrant workers remit an average of US$1.3
billion approximately Shillings 4.7 trillion annually. Raymond Wasukira, a
Senior Labour Officer in the Gender Ministry, said that the ministry is
concerned that some migrant workers acquire passports after falsifying their
ages so as to travel.
The gender ministry currently clears only citizens aged
21 and above to work abroad. He called for increased vigilance from the
Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control when processing passports
for such applicants because it derails efforts by the gender ministry to
protect Ugandans from irregular recruitment, child Labour and human trafficking
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Gilbert Kabuzire, a Principal Immigration
Officer, says the directorate relies on the data captured by the National
Identification and Registration Authority-NIRA to issue passports. "So if
an applicant under declares his or her age, we cannot verify. But in case there
is a doubt, the passport is withdrawn and the applicant is sent back to NIRA
for verification,” he said.
Kabuzire agrees with Talemwa and Wasukira on the
need for a multi-sectoral team to handle issues concerning migrant workers.
Abel Gebregzihaber, a Senior Public Prosecutor from Ethiopia’s Justice Ministry
and Javan Karima Nkundabakura from Rwanda’s Public Service and Labour Ministry
shared similar challenges.
Nkundabakura said that coordination on migration
management, systematic gathering, disseminating and exchange of migration data
remains a challenge because Labour migration is mainly managed by the
Directorate of Immigration and Emigration, which is under the National
Intelligence and Security Service.
Gebregzihaber says it is hard to
protect the rights of migrant workers or even pursue legal cases against
perpetrators due to the lack of cooperation and coordination among government
agencies and other stakeholders such as recruitment companies.
He said that an estimated 100,000 Ethiopian migrant workers
are abroad and some of their issues include long working hours, low income,
exposure to unsafe environments and the failure to ensure employers provide
health services and observe their human rights.
Shariff Meymuna, a Labour officer in the Ministry
of Labour in Kenya, said that there are about 4 million Kenyan migrant workers
abroad, with the majority working in the Middle East, USA, Canada, Australia, Europe
and African countries. She said that they licensed 702 recruitment agencies and
established three Labour attaches offices in Saudi Arabia, Qatar and UAE with
the mandate to protect the right of migrant workers.
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Shariff noted that “in the last decade remittances
have significantly increased reaching US$3.7 Billion in 2021 compared to US$ 104.6
Million in 2004. “Diaspora remittances is currently Kenya’s highest foreign
exchange earner having overtaken tea, coffee and tourism,” he said.
Last week, Richard
Opio, an official in the Foreign Affairs Ministry castigated other government
agencies and ministries for not sharing information relating to migrant
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Lucy Daxbacher, the IGAD Head of Mission to Uganda
agreed with Opio on the need for better coordination among government agencies
so as to get long-lasting solutions for migration and forced displacement in