East Africa: Recruitment agencies' complicity in subjecting migrant workers to slavery

Author: Wambi Michael, IPS, Published on: 26 September 2019

"East Africa: When the Search for Jobs Ends in Slavery"

...According to the United Nations Refugee Agency's Refworld, Kenya has been identified as a transit point for Ethiopians and other East Africans seeking work in South Africa, the Middle East and Asia. The Ugandan government, despite criticism, has encouraged externalisation of labour in order to attract foreign exchange in the form of remittances. Remittances from Ugandans abroad, according to the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA), increased from 1.6 billion dollars in 2016, to 2.0 billion dollars in 2017. In 2017, the government lifted a ban on Ugandans travelling abroad for domestic work, despite reports of abuse and trafficking...

Since then there has been a surge in labour recruitment agencies targeting the export of labour to countries like Oman, Jordan, UAE, Malaysia and China. As of 2018, over 105 private companies were licensed by Uganda's Gender and Labour Ministry to recruit workers for external employment. Nairobi-based labour recruiters recruit Ethiopian, Rwandan, and Ugandan workers through fraudulent offers of employment in the Middle East and Asia. But women recruited through these agencies end up in sex slavery or forced labour in the Middle East and China, among others. Nakitende was herself forced into salve labour. Her passport was taken by the domestic recruitment agency in Jordan and she was taken to a home in the city to work.  She was in deep pain but her employer forced her to work saying, she "had been bought for that purpose". Eventually she was sent back to the recruitment company that facilitated her employment so she could receive treatment. But the medication could not relieve the pain. "It instead worsened the situation as the palms turned black and swollen," Nakitende said.

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