Minister on International Migrants Day: Let us maintain our humanity in dealing with foreigners
December 21, 2018
Tuesday 18 December was International Migrants Day, with national events at the Pan African Freedom Park in Kampala. The day started with IOM Uganda staff and a few partners visiting Nsambya Babies home in the Makindye division of Kampala. Led by Chief of Mission Ali Abdi, the staff cut cake with the children, carried and cuddled and played with them, before marching to the venue. So thrilled were the children by the brass band from St Peter's Primary School that as the bad made for the gate, one of the babies lamented: "Ooh, the band people have gone!"
At the Freedom park, a key highlight was a panel discussion on various migration issues. The panel was moderated by Ms Vivian Oyella from the Office of the Prime Minister, assisted by IOM Programme Coordinator Erika De Bona. other panelists were Dr John Mushomi (Makerere University); Annette Kirabira (RAHAB Uganda ), John Marot (AYAN) and Emmanuel Ssemambo from Bank of Uganda
The Chief Guest, Hon Janat Balunzi Mukwaya, was represented by the Commissioner for Employment Services, Mr Lawrence Egulu. Below is the closing speech Commissioner Egulu delivered on behalf of the Minister.
Mr. Ali Abdi, IOM Chief of Mission and Acting UN Resident Coordinator,
Representatives of other UN agencies here present,
Representatives of various Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies,
Members of the Diplomatic Corps,
Representatives of various local and international civil society organizations,
Local Government leaders,
Members of the press corps,
Representatives of migrants and refugees here present,
Ladies and Gentlemen.
Let me begin by thanking IOM, the United Nations Migration Agency, for inviting me to preside over the International Migrants Day.
Migration has always been one of the ways through which people seek better economic opportunities, better security, and sometimes closer relationships. Let me state from the onset that my Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development views migration from a development perspective, and never as a challenge.
We do recognize the positive contribution of migration to national development, hence the various Government efforts to uphold the rights of Ugandans to move freely and settle anywhere in any part of this beautiful country.
In 2017, Ugandan migrant workers sent home about US$ 1.2 billion dollars (about 5 % of GDP). This is money to build this country – to educate young people, pay for healthcare, build decent housing, buy necessities, and generally improve people’s wellbeing. We applaud that contribution.
LADIES AND GENTLEMEN,
Last week in Marrakech, Morocco, the Intergovernmental Conference adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. Not only is this an historic milestone, but it is also testimony to the fact that multilateralism, other than unilateralism, is the answer to global challenges. No country can address migration on its own due to its transnational nature. Dialogue, consultations and negotiations, other than fear, work for the greater good of humanity.
Uganda was among the countries that signed onto the Global Compact, having been through all the six rounds of negotiations. Let me therefore take this opportunity to most sincerely thank Mr. Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General for the tenacity and leadership in steering the process until Marrakech.
We urge those countries with mixed feelings on migration to follow us, and instead focus on the positive attributes that promote inclusive economic growth, reduce inequalities and connect societies.
The global theme for this year’s International Migrants Day is “Migration with Dignity”. This is a very important theme because we in Uganda have set an example for the world in terms of how to deal with refugees and migrants. At a time when some other countries are persecuting “aliens’”, but who are indeed fellow human beings from across the borders, we in Uganda welcome them with open arms.
As a model country for migrants and refugees, Uganda is, more than ever before, committed to the content and aspirations of the 23 objectives of the Global Compact for Migration for better managing migration at local, national, regional and global levels. This commitment is premised on two principles:
- Migration is as old as humanity itself, and no one should be denied the freedom to build and maintain sustainable livelihoods for themselves and their families, and
- In its Article 29, the Constitution of the Republic of Uganda, 1995 guarantees every Ugandan the right “to enter, leave and return to, Uganda”.
We see the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development as the lead agency in implementing the Global Compact at national level. Our approach is three-pronged:
- Jobs at home as the number one priority. This entails creating the necessary conditions here in Uganda so as to ensure that sustainable livelihoods are available for our citizens. With the necessary infrastructure, supportive legislation and requisite investments, jobs have been created at home. With sustained peace and stability as well as the continued construction of hydroelectricity power dams and roads, the government has been steadily unlocking the potential of the economy to create jobs. This will significantly contribute to addressing the root causes and adverse drivers that compel people to leave their countries of origin.
In other words, we would like to create more decent jobs at home so that migration for employment is a secondary option. It is in this light that Government is implementing a number of employment and poverty reducing programmes – Youth Livelihood Programme, Uganda Women Entrepreneurship Programme, Social Assistance Grant or the Elderly (SAGE), Bona Wagagale, Operation Wealth Creation, to name a few. We have also initiated a number of sectoral studies looking at how best to ensure that the potential of different sectors to create the needed decent jobs is unlocked.
- Secondly, Migration abroad should be a choice and not made out of desperation. In the same vein, when one decides to travel abroad, the decision should be well informed, hence the need for more sensitization of potential migrants. We have safe pathways that the Government of Uganda has created, and we urge young people to take advantage of them. In order to promote safe, regular and productive employment abroad, the Ministry has undertaken the following:
- Opened up formal channels of deployment by licensing 117 recruitment companies;
- We have undertaken awareness and advocacy campaigns against trafficking in persons across the country. In addition to the above, we will continue working together with border communities, security agencies, religious leaders and traditional leaders, among others, to ensure that trafficking in persons is curbed;
- We have developed an online system for licensing, vetting and clearance of migrant workers. There is a plan to link this External Employment Management Information System with the immigration system and the foreign missions so that information about a migrant worker who has left or returned can be captured in real time;
- In order to ensure effective monitoring of migrant workers abroad, the Ministry has started a system of collecting data on all foreign employers before they are cleared to recruit from Uganda. So far we have details of all the 338 Saudi recruitment companies including their google map details;
- In order to facilitate protection of the rights of workers, only duly registered companies can recruit migrants workers and place them abroad;
- The Ministry has developed and made pre-departure orientation and training mandatory;
- In addition, only companies accredited by a Ugandan mission abroad can recruit domestic workers;
- A four party employment contract which makes recruitment companies in Uganda and recipient countries jointly and severally liable is in place;
- For national coherence, the Ministry works jointly with other line Ministries – Internal Affairs, including Police and Immigration; Foreign Affairs; Works and Transport; Local Government; Public Service; East African Community Affairs; and the security agencies; and
- Two bilateral labour agreements between Uganda on the one party, and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan were signed. We are also at various stages of negotiating and signing agreements with the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Lebanon, and the State of Qatar.
Government and the private sector are also working with other countries beyond the Middle East to see to it that our people access decent jobs in other parts of the world. So far we have received contacts from Turkey, China, Russia, Brazil, Ireland and South Korea. While we have externalized some skilled professions, this is an area which needs more work in terms of expanding the skills base.
Furthermore, as a destination country, it is also our wish that the rights, welfare and obligations of all migrants in the country be guaranteed.
- The third area is the return and reintegration of migrants. Safe, orderly and regular migration does not end at the port of exit. We continue to monitor the status of our migrant workers abroad, and ensure that their rights are always respected. Whether externalized through legally registered companies or not, the welfare of every Uganda abroad is the obligation of Government. In this respect we offer them consular services whenever they need them. We have cases of Ugandans who, having spent time abroad, wish to come back to the country voluntarily and contribute to the development of their country. There are also those who are in distress or have been found to lack the requisite paperwork. When they come back, access to jobs, the needed skills, counselling and guidance, etc. will be provided. There have been calls for more streamlined remittance transmission channels back to the country. This is where the Ministry is best placed to respond to migrants’ challenges.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
As the natural home of labour, employment and social development in general, the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development will continue to partner with relevant stakeholders in ensuring that migration is safe, orderly, regular and productive for our people.
Let me underscore again that migration requires a holistic approach and enhanced international cooperation. We have full confidence in IOM, which is the lead agency in implementing the Global Compact. We have cultivated a very productive engagement with you, Mr. Ali Abdi and the entire team, and we look forward to further this partnership engagement with you. Thank you for your support to the Ministry and to Uganda in general. Uganda reiterates its commitment to the implementation of the Compact - for the realization of our wishes and aspirations as highlighted therein. As a Ministry, we are glad to take lead in the implementation of the post-Marrakech process. In this regard, we will soon be reaching out to you on how best to move the Global Compact beyond Marrakech.
As I end, I would like to appeal to Ugandans to maintain our cherished humanity in the way we deal with migrant populations – be they refugees or other foreigners. But at the same time we continue to working toward ensuring that Ugandans are treated with the same dignity when we go abroad through safe, orderly and regular channels.
I would now like to declare the commemoration of the International Migrants’ Day officially closed.
I thank you all for your kind attention.
FOR GOD AND MY COUNTRY