Labour exporters warned for illegally withholding 8,000 passports

Uganda's Internal Affairs scales down production of new passports by half
Spokesperson of the Ministry of Internal Affairs Simon Peter Mundeyi

Kampala, Uganda | URN | Labour exporters are illegally withholding more than 8,000 passports, the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) has revealed.

Simon Peter Mundeyi, the Internal Affairs Ministry Spokesperson, says that they have been receiving complaints from mostly women whose passports have been confiscated by labour export firms.

Mundeyi said after receiving the complaints, they conducted secret investigations and have since established that more than 8,000 passports are unlawfully being withheld by labour export companies.

“Ever since the business of exporting labour reduced, so many girls who had applied have had their passports withheld. The companies claim they are waiting for contracts. We have received several complaints. A total of 8,000 passports are being held by labour exporters,” Mundeyi said.

Some of the reasons why the labour export business has been slow this year are the increased outcry of Ugandans being exploited, mistreated, raped, and even killed in the Arab world. Some women have involuntarily lost their vital internal organs such as kidneys at the hands of their exporters in connivance with their employers in the Arab world.

Because of such stories, the Minister for labor Betty Amongi alongside the Internal Affairs Minister, Kahinda Otafiire, decided to step up the scrutiny of labor exporters in Uganda and employers in the Arab world.  Kahinda and Amongi tasked the companies to first present proof of contracts to job seekers and appointment letters for the jobs they are going to do.

Labour inspectors tasked to enforce amended NSSF Act
The Minister of Gender, Labour, and Social Development Betty Amongi

In addition, a team was set up in Saudi Arabia where most Ugandans have been mistreated or killed to assess the working conditions of every recruitment agency. This has since caused delays in clearing the Ugandan labor exporters due to the absence of the required safety documents.

Mundeyi said labor exporters who have lost out on business have not yet accepted the situation and have decided to withhold the applicants’ passports. “One such company had 2,000 passports in their office for some of these Ugandans. We would like to warn these companies that they should return these passports to the owners. We are going to carry out operations to ensure these passports are returned to owners,” Mundeyi said.

Baker Akantambira, who is authorized to speak for the Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), said each company (Labour exporters) has reasons for withholding the passports of the applicants. “First it requires proof that an organization is confiscating passports. Each organization could have different reasons for that,” Akantambira said. UAERA has had leadership wrangles prompting many companies to denounce the association.

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A 23-year-old female who was found at the Saud Arabia embassy office along Yusuf Lule Road said she applied for a receptionist job in Saudi Arabia through a labor export company in March this year but they keep postponing her travel days.

“I had already paid some money because I was promised to travel in a month’s time. We are now in October and they are telling us that we are going soon. This has been the same song since April and I am tired of it. They have also refused to return my passport yet I have paid another money,” the woman said.

Mundeyi said indeed many labour exporters have made victims pay twice with promises of taking them soon for work in the Arab world for nonexistent jobs. He said other women have said the labour exporters are asking them to pay money in order to get their passports yet they had already been charged for the same.