Vigilant operations nets 1,655 foreigners for illegal stays in Uganda

Vigilant operations nets 1,655 foreigners for illegal stays in Uganda
Dr. Josephine Ekwang Ali talks to suspects from China,India and Pakistan after conducting a joint field inspection with South African officials.

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | According to statistics from the Department of Inspection and Legal Services (DILS) in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, 1,655 foreigners faced arrest and interrogation between July and December 2023 for suspected illegal stays in Uganda.

Led by Dr. Josephine Ekwang Ali, DILS conducted surprise operations across various workplaces, including factories, warehouses, supermarkets, workshops, and ordinary shops.

These actions were prompted by reports from vigilant Ugandans highlighting instances of foreigners engaging in unauthorized work within the country.

Ekwang’s team detained any foreign national lacking a valid passport, visa, work permit, student pass, or dependent pass. Out of the 1,655 individuals arrested and investigated, DILS identified 309 who had entered the country unlawfully, subsequently leading to their deportation.

“We noticed that 23 were genuine asylum seekers who had just come into the country or had just applied to legalize their stay. We handed them to the Office of the Prime Minister since we are bound by international law not to send back people who have run away from their mother countries for genuine reasons,” reads the DILS report.

Eighty of the detained foreigners have lodged appeals against their arrest and deportation, with their cases currently under review by higher authorities within the Ministry of Internal Affairs.

Among these, sixty-two individuals, mainly foreign students, have successfully regularized their stay in the country by obtaining a student pass or dependent pass.

Simon Peter Mundeyi, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Internal Affairs, confirmed that out of the 853 foreigners apprehended during the six-month crackdown on illegal visitors and workers, they have been released upon furnishing the necessary documentation.

“When you are a foreigner, you are supposed to move with your legal documents at all times. So, when DILS raided the workplaces where locals had provided intelligence about their illegal stay, our team did not find them with lawful documents. They were arrested but later released because they presented genuine documents regarding their stay in the country,” Mundeyi explained.

DILS operates within the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC), led by Maj. Gen. Appolo Kasiita Gowa. Investigations are underway as some of the detained foreigners were identified as victims of human trafficking.

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Colonel George Brian Kambare, the Commissioner in charge of Citizenship Control, has consistently ordered operations against traffickers. This has led to the apprehension of individuals involved in trafficking Ethiopian, Burundian, and Eritrean nationals into Uganda or using Entebbe Airport as a transit point, especially to destinations in Asia, notably Beirut in Lebanon.

Simon Peter Mundeyi reiterated that operations against illegal foreigners are being intensified this year. He highlighted a recent surge in arrests and ongoing investigations for various offenses.

Mundeyi emphasized DILS’s commitment to sensitization and operations, urging the public to remain vigilant and report any unlawful residence or work without proper immigration documents.