The Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies has encouraged Ugandans to get vaccinated if the country is to do away with more travel bans.
The Association’s Spokesperson Ronnie Mukundane joined Olive Najjuma on Brunch Talk to discuss the temporary suspension of flights from Uganda to Dubai confirmed by Uganda Civil Aviation Authority (UCAA).
On 25th December 2021, the United Arab Emirates made the move amid concerns over the COVID-19 Omicron variant and rising infection numbers in the country. This resulted in Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Nigeria being blacklisted from operating flights to Dubai, and also left a number of labour export companies in crisis with many stranded as they were travelling to UAE for work.
Mukundane explained that the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases and low levels of vaccinated people is the reason why Ugandans are viewed as a risk by foreign host destinations.
“The reason given for banning us is that we have low numbers of vaccinated people in the country. We are about a population of 50 million but those who are fully vaccinated are not even 5 million so whoever looks at you as a Ugandan views you as a possible transmitter,” he said.
He continued, “The only way to avoid this is urging people to get vaccinated to avoid these bans because this won't only affect travelers and those seeking employment in the UAE given the sector alone was bringing in $1.3 billion direct foreign revenue before Covid.”
According to the Spokesperson, the cancellation of Ugandan flights to Dubai weighed adversely on them since Dubai is not only a major destination for workers but also a transit center for those who were returning.
“Those that were supposed to travel for employment, automatically couldn't go, but also the companies have to incur losses on money spent on purchasing tickets and medical tests of 48 hours which are irreversible. However, we encourage the public to be calm since the UAE took this measure to safeguard the health of their masses.”
He maintained that the jobs secured for those would still be available because contracts were already signed, issued and offered to Ugandans despite the opportunities only being available for a short period before being given to other countries if not taken up.
Aside from the travel bans, Olive raised claims as alleged by some former UAE workers from Uganda who have in the past accused the host labour companies of confiscating their passports on arrival. She also questioned the Spokesperson on which measures the Government has put in place to protect people who are working overseas.
In response, Mukundane said that the passports are taken from the employees to secure work permits which are processed using the passport documents that are a necessity for workers in foreign countries.
He added that the Government is working on licensing recruitment companies and establishing bilateral labor agreements with other UAE countries, apart from Saudi Arabia.
“The only bilateral agreement we have right now is only with Saudi Arabia as the only country Uganda cleared for domestic workers, however we are aware that there are more than 50,000 there and Oman has over 40,000 who went through unlicensed companies. So when they get into trouble, that is when the media or public shows them being mistreated.”
Moreso, he explained that people who go through licensed companies sign contracts from Uganda which include knowledge about the location of where they are to be disposed and salary. The documents are also signed by their next of kin such that when they get into trouble, the embassy team from Uganda can use mobile contacts to send supervisors to engage the worker in their local language to understand their working conditions.
He also cautioned that many companies taking Ugandans abroad are unlicensed, adding that these take some Ugandans to the UAE using dubious ways and for dubious reasons. “On reaching there, these companies give up on them leaving the workers to face inhumane treatment. I therefore encourage those who intend to work domestically in the UAE to pass through licensed recruitment companies that have clearance from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
To distinguish between unlicensed and licensed companies, Mukundane advised people seeking domestic recruitment in UAE to get the reach out to the Ministry of Gender, DISO, the RDC’s and DPC’s within districts; as well as online on the government portal that has the list of licensed and suspended companies.
Brunch Talk is hosted by Olive Najjuma Monica every Saturday from Midday to 1pm on RX Radio.