IOM Chief of Mission calls for safety at Symposium on Externalization of Labour

October 21, 2018

On 17 October, IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Ali Abdi was one of the key speakers at the National Symposium and Expo on Externalization of Labour in Kampala.

 The daylong event at Hotel Africana was organized by the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), and the Uganda Association for External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA).

The event was presided over by the minister for Gender, Labour and Social Development, Hon Janat Mukwaya . Other key dignitaries present included Gender State Minister Peace Mutuuzo, the ambassador of Saudi Arabia to Uganda, Dr Abdullah Al Qahtani; Ministry of Gender Permanent Secretary Pius Bigirimana, and top ministry officials.

The dignitaries and the minister toured the expo, where various firms involved in the labour export subsector exhibited their services.

But before that, UAERA chairman Andrew Kameraho enumerated the contribution of externalized labour to the country, saying that as many as 3,000 Ugandan youths are sent abroad by his 105 member-firms every month.

In his speech Permanent Secretary Bigirimana acknowledged the contribution of the externalization of labour to the Ugandan economy and society, as well as government’s commitment to supporting the subsector. But he also pointed out lingering challenges such as substitution of worker’s contracts, exploitation of especially female workers, and nonpayment of wages.

Bigirimana also hailed the support from IOM Uganda to the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

For his part, the Saudi Ambassador Dr Abdullah Al Qahtani thanked the Ugandan government and UAERA for the existing cooperation on labour export. He said the embassy was keen to expedite the processing of visas for migrant workers.


When she spoke, Minister Janat Mukwaya  urged UAERA to help improve the product (Ugandan workers abroad). Finding employment for Ugandans, she said, was pressing need that her ministry was taking seriously. But she also reiterated that UAERA members should be concerned about the working conditions of the Ugandans they recruit to work abroad.  She said the Uganda government was talking to more governments in the Middle East with a view to working on bilateral labour agreements.

 “Anyone who does not care about the welfare of our girls [and boys] has no business being in this industry,” the minister said.

In his speech, IOM Uganda Chief of Mission Ali Abdi emphasized that migration has always been a reality of human societies, but it needs to be orderly, humane, and out of choice rather than forced.

Here is Abdi’s speech in full:


Remarks by Ali Abdi,  IOM Uganda Chief of Mission
National Symposium and Expo on Externalization of Labour
Hotel Africana
17 October, 2018

The Honourable Minister of Gender, labour and Social Development
Your Excellency the Ambassador of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
The Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Gender, labour and Social Development
The Chairperson, Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies
Representatives from Government Ministries, department and agencies
Representatives from Non-governmental organizations
Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is a distinct honour and privilege for IOM and for me personally to be part of this labour migration symposium today.
I was recently in Nairobi at the regional Labour migration symposium, which brought together participants from all over the continent. I must say significant steps are being taken by African countries towards fostering safe and orderly labour mobility within and from the continent. 
Let me therefore begin by thanking the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development, in partnership with Uganda Association of External recruitment Agencies, for organizing this very important and timely meeting.  I am confident the outcome will contribute to strengthening labour migration management in Uganda.

As we believe in IOM, migration is an inevitable reality that has been with humanity since history can tell and can be a driver of development, if well managed. The reality is that people move and will continue to move because of various driving factors, which include; demographics, desire for better life, demand for labour, among others.
Uganda is a typical example. The biggest proportion of the population in this country is young people, full of energy and aspirations. These aspects, met with demand for their labour and skills not only in the country but in other countries as well, drive people to migrate. It is our collective responsibility to ensure that these people migrate out of choice and not out of necessity, and that they migrate in a safe, dignified and orderly manner.
The movement of people across national boundaries for the purpose of employment is an essential component of human progress and globalization. Labour migration offers opportunities for economic development, including through remittances and acquisition of knowledge and skills.
Today and increasingly, Ugandans are tapping into the opportunities that regional and international labour markets offer. Statistics show that remittances from Ugandans in the diaspora continue to grow. In 2017, it is estimated, remittances contributed 5 per cent of Uganda’s GDP. On that note, I congratulate the Government of Uganda for including labour migration in its second National Development plan. I also thank the Government for establishing a specialized unit at the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to manage labour migration in Uganda.

For countries of origin, labour migration can also be a complement for easing unemployment. 
These benefits however, can only be fully optimized if people migrate in a safe, dignified, and orderly manner. When migrants are forced into irregular and unsafe pathways, they often face hardships, grave human rights abuses, falling prey to human traffickers. This leaves them vulnerable to exploitation during the journey, as well as in the destination countries.


Ladies and gentlemen,
Realizing the full potential of migration requires countries not only to put in place migration polices but to implement well managed migration policies –  a goal that countries committed to  in the agenda 2030.
If I may refresh our minds, target 10.7 of the Sustainable Development Goals states: "facilitate orderly, safe, regular and responsible migration and mobility of people, including through the implementation of planned and well-managed migration policies."
In view of this, we need to work collectively and in partnership to develop comprehensive policies and approaches to the governance of migration, in order to promote opportunities for safe and dignified labour migration in Uganda.
Global compact on Migration
Partnership and cooperation is not only needed at national level but also between countries of origin, transit and destination. To that effect, United Nations member states are in the process of developing a global compact on migration (GCM), which is expected to be adopted in December, 2018.
The GCM presents a critical opportunity for all countries to look forward to a common future in which migration is safe, orderly and regular, and concrete steps needed to realize this vision.
I would like to again, thank the Government of Uganda for its participation in the development of the GCM. In December, 2017, Uganda held national consultations towards the GCM, and has been participating in various regional and international consultative meetings on the global compact on migration.
As a country, we need to start preparing for the implementation the global compact, once adopted.  

While significant steps have been taken to improve labour migration in Uganda, more effort is still needed. 
Protection of migrant workers. A significant number of Ugandan women are employed in domestic work in the destination countries. The very nature of domestic work creates complex labour protection issues, which increases vulnerability of the migrant workers to exploitation and abuse. There is therefore need to strengthen and streamline labour migration processes, structures and mechanisms, to ensure protection of migrant workers. Also, equipping young people with skills would allow them to take up jobs in the formal sector of the destination countries.
Remittance transaction costs remain high. The SDG target is less than 3 percent. Moreover, a large proportion of these remittances are used for household consumption. Migrants need to be supported to direct these remittances into productive investment ventures back home. This could be through reduction of remittance transfer costs, enhancing mechanisms for investment, among others.
As the migration agency of the United Nations, IOM is committed to supporting the Government of Uganda to promote safe, humane and orderly labour migration, for the benefit of all.

Thank you for your attention.