Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE) | URN | Former Ugandan presidential candidate, Robert Kyagulanyi Ssentamu alias Bobi Wine has complained of being arrested and subsequently interrogated for over 10 hours at Dubai airport in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Mr Kyagulanyi popularly known as Bobi Wine, the president of the opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party, says that he travelled to the UAE on Friday 7, October 2022 for a charity concert intended to help raise awareness about the plight of Ugandan immigrant workers.
“Landed in Dubai at 8:30 pm. It’s now 5 am. I have been held and interrogated for 8 hours. They asked me about NUP, its leaders, their phone numbers, my family members, and their contacts! I have all the necessary travel documents. They confiscated my passport and my phone. Am literary under arrest,” Kyagulanyi tweeted at 4.09 am EAT on Saturday 8, October 2022.
After an hour, he added that he had been held at the airport for almost 10 hours, being interrogated mostly about his political party before the authorities returned his phone, and passport and released him.
“After 12 hours, (8:30 pm to 9:30 am) I’ve been finally allowed into Dubai. Hoping that our charity concert, which seemed to be the source of these issues, will be allowed to proceed. We are only trying to raise awareness and assist the many Ugandan and African Immigrant workers,” Kyagulanyi reported.
“Unfortunately our Charity Concert in Dubai has been cancelled! The venue owner has been instructed to cancel. The information available shows Ugandan authorities have been working tooth and nail to ensure it doesn’t happen! The first attempt was to deny me entry, and now this!” he said later at 1 pm EAT.
It is not yet clear why the UAE authorities decided to detain Kyagulanyi but the development comes on a backdrop of complaints of rampant torture and inhumane treatment by migrant workers.
The UAE embassy in Kampala couldn’t be reached for comment since it doesn’t work on weekends. Last month, the government started preparations to repatriate more than 500 Ugandan migrant workers who are stranded in gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Oman among others.
Betty Among, the minister of Gender, Labour and Social Development then said that the government was in the advanced stages to repatriate the migrant workers who have complained rampantly against their employers. She said that some of the migrant workers had approached Ugandan embassies for rescue while others shared video or audio clips with their families illustrating their ordeals.
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The affected Ugandans include those who were lawfully externalized as domestic workers by the government through the ministry of Gender and those trafficked by different private recruitment organizations.
In the UAE capital, Dubai, the Ugandan immigration centre had already recorded complaints from 200 domestic workers, and 300 others in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia whose employers reportedly confiscated their passports to deny them avenues to return home.
It is not clear when the government will finish the assessment of the workers for repatriation. Under section 66 of the Employment Act, the Recruitment of Ugandan Migrant Workers Abroad Regulations 2005, and 2015, a migrant worker is licensed for two years, but Among pointed out that the employers violate the provision by denying some of the workers exit visas.