Sold as a modern slave.

Author:Ojulu, Epajjar
 
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An increasing number of African women are being lured to work as domestics in the Middle East where they are exploited both by recruiters and employers. New African correspondent Epajjar Ojulu talked to one of these 'modern-day slaves'.

As in other African countries, the rising number of unemployed is driving Uganda's youth to the oil-rich Middle East in search of work.

The government, which is facing criticism for failing to create jobs for up to 80% of the estimated 400,000 school leavers and graduates from universities and tertiary institutions, according to the statistics, has flung the doors open for anyone wishing to find a job outside the country by liberalising the labour export sector.

At the moment the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development does not regulate the activities of agencies specialising in recruiting locals to work overseas beyond requiring them to give updated reports on the volume and destination of workers, says John Ogutu, a senior labour officer.

An attempt by Mukono Municipality Member of Parliament, Betty Nambooze in July to introduce legislation to monitor and regulate the activities of such labour-export firms has been put on hold for now.

Janey Mukwaya, the Gender, Labour and Social Services Minister until December, has said that about 150 firms are licensed to recruit labour and have to date sent over 200,000 youths to work in the Middle East, mainly as unskilled and semi-skilled labourers, domestic workers and security guards.

She is probably unaware of the tens of thousands more, most of them the illiterate and semi-illiterate, excluded by licensed firms, which demand applicants have the minimum qualification of secondary school education.

In addition, some even with requisite qualifications have been driven into the hands of human traffickers by the bureaucracy and the fees demanded by licensed firms, with the assurance of instant jobs.

In August, top executives of three prominent firms were arrested after numerous job seekers petitioned the police that they had not got jobs promised up to two years ago, after paying the required fee of up to Ush7m ($2,000). Human traffickers have apparently taken advantage of the negative publicity against licensed firms to lure youths desperate for jobs.

Distress messages

Although thousands of girls have secured domestic work in the Middle East, the opposition MP for Mukono Municipality, Betty Nambooze, says she is receiving distress messages from dozens of...

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