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31 Oct 2019

The Observer (Uganda)

How some human traffickers defraud Ugandans seeking employment abroad

"How human trafficking gangs work in Uganda; one victim narrates her ordeal"

The high level of unemployment has driven many young Ugandans to seek job opportunities abroad, especially the Arab world. While many have successfully turned their lives around through legally registered labour export firms, a good number has fallen prey to human traffickers posing as recruitment agents, who surprisingly extort huge sums of money, as Elizabeth Amongin discovered from one victim, Rosemary Oduya. The mother of six and resident of Lugazi narrates her story: 

woman called Hajat Zulaika Nkinzi, a resident of Lugazi who is known for helping young women secure jobs, told me I could go work in the Middle East so that I could educate my children, since I am a single parent. The first question she asked was whether I owned a national ID, and thankfully, I had one. She then asked me to find Shs 750, 000 to process my passport. She then asked me for Shs 180, 000 for a blood test...Towards the travel day, Shafiq called me and asked for another Shs 800,000 to cater for the tickets. Since I had sold off all my property, I told Shafiq I would not be able to raise that amount.  When Nkinzi was informed about this, she told me to raise the money at whatever cost...

My boss then asked for a bank account so that my salary could be paid into it. I had agreed with Nkinzi that my salary be paid into an account she would open for me, but that first I send the money to her account. Upon receipt, she would deposit it into my account. My boss also established that my documents were forged, so they claimed that I had TB and could not allow me to work for the family. They asked me to get treatment at home, then they would organize a ticket for me to return to the job once I recovered...

Her total expenses were Shs 3,590,000 (almost $1,000), enough money to pay rent and start a decent business in most Ugandan towns. But what Oduya got out of the misadventure was Shs 800,000 (about $200 – one month’s salary) and a wasted flight to Dubai. That leaves Hajjat and her accomplices with close to Shs 1.4m ‘profit’, from Oduya alone. Hajjat walked free, as did her accomplice Shafiq; free to mint money from more desperate Ugandans looking for greener pastures.