The government of Uganda has welcomed the new penalties posed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government against individuals, rogue labor recruitment companies and employers under the revised domestic labor laws.
Recently the UAE Government deported over 1000 Ugandans who had been detained at Al Awir, Al Warasan and 19 other immigration centers. The group which comprised mainly women had been jailed over accumulated fines arising from expired visas and sundry.
Effective October 06, 2022, the UAE government blacklisted Ugandans and Nigerians. They are now required to have a certificate of good conduct and about 5,000 dirhams (Shs 5.3 million) in their bank account.
In tandem, the UAE government announced a visa ban on Ugandans and 20 other nationalities. The source said that from October 18, 2022, nationals from Nigeria, Rwanda, Benin, Ghana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Comoros, Cameroon, Liberia, Republic of Guinea, Gambia, Togo, Senegal, Dominican Republic, Ivory Coast, Congo, Burkina Faso, Burundi, and Guinea Bissau will not be granted 30-day visas till further notice.
Ugandans had turned into crooks, thieving banks, sleeping on streets and indulging in other illegal activities to survive. They were allegedly lured to travel to UAE with the hope of getting jobs during the Dubai Expo, restaurants and others had sneaked out from their places of work over mistreatment. Nearly half of them had their passports confiscated by their former bosses and others were trafficked.
According to a source at Uganda’s Embassy in Abu Dhabi, the amended law will come into effect on December 15 and it is aimed at protecting employees who include; house maids, cub drivers, gardeners and sundry in the Arabian Country.
“The Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation said is keen on building on the UAE’s achievements in supporting domestic helpers by committing to its role in overseeing the enforcing of laws, decisions, and legislation that would regulate recruitment and employment of domestic helpers in line with international best practices during the contractual period,” the source said.
According to a source at Uganda’s embassy in Abu Dhabi, the lined-up fines include Dh20, 000 (Shs 20.8Million) and Dh100, 000 (Shs 104million) and up to six months in prison for individuals who provide false information or fake documents to employ domestic helpers.
Employers who hire unlicensed workers, recruit staff but do not provide a job, or use permits for domestic workers for purposes other than those for which they were issued, will be fined a minimum of Dh50,000 (Shs 52million) and a maximum of Dh200,000 (Shs 208million). The same penalty applies to those who close recruitment agency operations without settling wages owed to domestic workers.
The law stipulated that individuals who employ a worker under the age of 18 years or assist a worker to abscond or shelter absconding workers with an aim to exploit them in illegal activities face fines of up to Dh200,000 (Shs 208 million).
“Dh200,000 (Shs 208million) and Dh1 million(Shs 1billion) and jail time of one year will be given to employers for attempting to employ a worker on a full-time or temporary basis without a permit and misusing login credentials for the ministry’s online portal,” She said.
The penalties related to employing unlicensed workers will be increased based on the number of workers, up to a maximum of Dh10m (Shs 10 billion). Penalties will be doubled for repeat offenders.
GOV’T SPEAKS OUT
Interviewed for this story, Okello Charles Engola Macodwogo , the Minister of State for Labor, Employment, and Industrial Relations said the UAE government is right if you traveled on a visit visa, why do you start looking look for jobs? These are the things we should be sensitizing Ugandans on. Go through the right channels or licensed labor recruitment agencies mandated to get jobs for Ugandans.
“The government of Uganda will accordingly advise the UAE government on where they feel that the law is not favoring Ugandans. We should as well sensitize Ugandans about the laws in the countries they travel to for work to avoid being caught on the wrong side of the law,” he said.
The revised law will help to reduce the number of Ugandans trafficked into the UAE and improve the employer and employee relationship thereby meeting all the contractual obligations.
Eagle Online contacted Betty Amongi, the Minister of Gender Labor and Social Development for a comment but she couldn’t pick up nor return our repeated calls.
Ambassador Henry Mayega, Uganda’s consul general in Dubai was not available for comment. Recently he told Eagle Online that Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the UAE government to streamline labor externalization and it will soon be implemented.
He said the MoU will see Ugandans take up professional jobs in the teaching, engineering and other sectors. Most Ugandans in the UAE are employed in the informal sector as housemaids, gardeners, cargo handlers and other jobs.
“We need to tighten controls on the companies that do labor externalization. The consulate is mobilizing the Diaspora to do all manner of things that contribute to the development of Uganda,” he said.
recently Ambassador Mayega and Consul General of Kenya Ambassador Peter Mwendwa met and discussed how they can upgrade the existing labor externalization Memorandum of Understandings (MoU) with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to benefit the nationals of the two countries.
REACTION TO THE UAE LAW
Speaking to Eagle Online, Abdallar Kayonde the president of Migrant Workers Voice welcomed the new changes in the labor laws; they indicate that there is light in the tunnel. This is a good gesture toward the advocacy against human rights violations in UAE.
“What we are asking for is full freedom. Still, the employees are not allowed to create worker’s unions or organizations. We wish to see workers more empowered to bargain and exercise their liberty other than relying on a sponsor or a middleman. The punishments will work but the best way is to give freedom at both ends to exercise a tripartite structure s it is recommended in international labor standards,” he said.
“When it comes to amnesty about the overstay people, we want the UAE government to give a complete package because who he repatriates foot the bill other than throwing them into deportation centers, we only pray that they look into this. Besides that the workers contribute to the GDP of UAE as immigrant workers,” he said.
He said the continuous mistreatment of Ugandans in UAE and the country’s decision should serve as a lesson to the government of Uganda to form good policies, plan and employment for its people. The good policies will favor Ugandans to stay other than seek migrations as the last resort. Government should be considerate of Ugandans in Diaspora. They need cash back, a backup. They should get a soft landing when they get home because they remit a lot of money.
Interviewed for this story, Ronnie Mukundane, spokesperson of the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) said the new penalties apply only to labor export companies in UAE.
“The hefty fines will apply to labor export companies in UAE which had taken advantage of employing individuals who accessed UAE on tourist visas. They had gone to visit but when they reached UAE, they embark on looking for Jobs. So UAE is stopping companies from recruiting those people,” he said.
“What those companies were doing was illegal because they were not incurring any cost in terms of sponsoring or transporting those people. It was cheap to recruit them but the status of the employees is illegal, they came to visit not to work,”
He said UAE is grappling with a huge number of people on overstay, a vice which was encouraged by labor recruitment firms in the UAE. “Our People are cleared officially and regularly travel after getting employment visas and contracts. The new laws will affect people who go on their own hoping to get jobs,”