Migrant Workers Voice
Migrant Workers' voice network ASSOCIATION Current Status quo of Ugandan migrant workers in UAE
*Migrant Workers' voice network ASSOCIATION Current Status quo of Ugandan migrant workers in Middle East with regard to migration documentation and recruitment systems used*
Before a short ban put by the UAE government stopping Ugandans and other African countries including The Republic of Congo and Zambia nationals from going to their countries, we had registered many complaints raising among them including, continuous arrests,detaining and deportation of migrant workers by the authoritiesof UAE!! However Many migrants flocking to the region as domestic workers approximately 30-50 thousand Ugandan migrants registered and many more irregular ones. According to Migrants they say immigration officers are very rude, sometimes yelling at the migrants, workers who got handcuffed, tied and brought to lobby treating them like animals, restrictions from communication to reach their families
When the workers are check in the country, The problem is many employers keep the passport of the workers.
Below is a statement made by MWANA
In our findings to the ongoing enforcement operations on undocumented migrant workers by the Immigration Department of UAE Countries today, We realise that both government UAE andUganda have been reluctant about the overdue Migrant workers' concerns about their rights that need to be addressed in order to safeguard the future of migrants in UAE..
Several times the directives of the UAE authorities fail to address the root causes of the issues and do not provide formal platforms involving Migrants leadership for proper discussions and analysis for just remedies which need to be holistic, comprehensive and be based on ILO Conventions and fundamental Human Rights principles. These concerns also cover refugees, asylum seekers and stateless communities, who are also at risks of being detained at any time during enforcement operations.
How Migrants Become Undocumented
Many of the migrants the UAE Government has labelled “Illegal” (or in more humane terms “undocumented”) attain that status due to no fault of their own. Some of these reasons include:
*Trafficking*: Middle east has of recently become the most common place of destination for Ugandans and as a human trafficking hub, Dubai taking the lead point of arrivals after Oman due to its lucrative cultural,lifestyle and business that attracts sheer numbers of ppl to destin.
So many well-connected trafficking syndicates who enjoy the laxity in the visa system, where visit Visas to the country have become the order of the day and lack of formal country to country bilateral arrangements to address the iregularities
report further reinforces our fears of the prevalent and possibly even systemic existence of trafficking networks within UAE given their claim always to be permitted and immigration departments always accepting to endorse their papers with out first asking statuses of the Migrants they endorse and their capabilities to sustain themselves and the destination safty.
Then We must never punish migrants who became victims of trafficking to UAE as their circumstances are beyond their control. We believe Criminalizing victims and survivors of such circumstances is not the way to go, we should instead be going after the syndicates in Dubai and those responsible trafficking agents in Uganda and the rest of Africa
Agents have a history of giving false advice and promises regarding the process of getting visit visas and job permits in UAE. Some migrants have low literacy levels, making them susceptible to fraud and deception, and even literate migrant workers become possible victims of fraud and unjust treatment by both recruiters and employers. Recruiters promise work permits and good employment contracts with decent wages and conditions. Upon arrival, however, these workers often find that not only have their contracts, employment sites, and terms and conditions been changed but that they may have also violated UAE immigration laws.
For most workers, there is little access to justice or right to redress mechanisms in proving the fraud and deception, so they left to streets having to move up and down or even in hiding looking for best they can be safe to work or exist back home with out being imprisoned or even burned from return to the same destination.
The rehiring process is lengthy and non-transparent, the subcontractors and sub-agents of rehiring face little accountability. Transferring from one boss to the other is a privatized process driven by profiteering motifs, fraud and deception. For example, workers are not given receipts of rehiring payments and many agents cheat workers, taking their money but not providing e-cards. There is no adequate redress mechanism that can investigate and track these agents in UAE and Uganda itself.
The migrant working visa renewal process is equally riddled with cheating, a lack of transparency and little accountability by agents and employers. Most migrants have little idea of how this opaque process works. Passports are often illegally held by employers and whether their visas are renewed or not is out of and beyond the worker’s control.
*Employer bondage and exploitation*:
The employer’s consent for workers to change employers. This inflexibility is particularly problematic in cases of exploitation, intimidation and physical violence where workers have no choice but to abscond and become undocumented. This is exacerbated where workers’ passports have been illegally retained by the boss. This system, which known as the widely-criticized kafala system practised in the Gulf countries, the system provides provides little option to seek redress for workers in this situation, particularly with the overhanging threat of deportation.
*Amnesty blacklisting*: The 3 + 1 amnesty program, which blacklists workers for five (5) years, further discourages them from using the amnesty system and thus forces them to become undocumented because even if they choose to come home, they will have no work there.
The complex commercial chains of private Recruitment AGENCIES/ *man power pooling companies and agents that govern migrant workers’ affairs and activities render them largely unaccountable*. Companies and agents often deny or neglect their responsibility for their workers, and many migrant workers become undocumented because of the irresponsibility of these companies and agents.
Documented corruption and inefficiency within border enforcement agencies add to the problems faced by migrant workers, benefitting from the activities of the accountable recruitment industry and providing little relief or assistance when things go wrong.
Many migrant workers believe the promises made to them in countries of origin by agents and employers, borrowing huge sums from syndicates and moneylenders to finance the initial migration costs/ inputs. *This debt bondage is exacerbated by the illegitimate substitution of contract terms, arbitrarily driving down wages and conditions and imposing unaccountable wage deductions, making repayment increasingly difficult. Sending people home in such circumstances is putting many workers at risk, and this needs to be clearly addressed*.
To ensure that all labour migration matters are handled in a way that gives dignity and respect to migrant workers, we demand a holistic solution based on the following recommendations:
An immediate moratorium on raids/enforcement operation to ensure no workers are punished for crimes which are not of their fault. These arrests and operations should be suspended while a holistic assessment of all the issues and potential comprehensive solutions are undertaken with all stakeholders Migrant workers' leadership inclusive with regard to labour migration.
That the Government makes available the Standard Operating Procedure for conducting arrests and detaining undocumented migrant workers, so that human rights and civil society organisations can ensure fundamental rights are protected and due process guaranteed.
To decriminalize the “undocumented” status of workers (which is an administrative offence), and recognize that becoming undocumented is primarily an outcome of labour exploitation. This is especially relevant for vulnerable groups like women and men migrant workers, who face additional layers of exploitation which leads to them being undocumented and victims of forced labour and trafficking.
Parliament of Uganda should direct the Minister of Gender,labour and social development to lobby Reforms in the UAE labour MOUs and bilateral arangements to facilitate safe dialogue spaces between the Government of UAE, UGANDA and migrant communities/ ASSOCIATIONs and other relevant stakeholders and social actors to propose evidence-based solutions. Such solutions must be based on clear verified labour market data, Information and Analysis, employer organizations and other sound economic analysis) and base its solutions on fundamental Human Rights and Decent Work principles.
The involvement of the International Labour Organisation would be advisable in this respect.
To facilitate the overhaul and expansion of Government-to-Government hiring mechanisms as the primary means by which workers are recruited in UAE in a systematic manner that is orderly, well tracked,transparent and accountable as well as evidence- and rights-based.
More time must be given to migrant workers to process and secure their working visa status and make decisions on their working status in UAE.
Unrealistic deadlines force workers to risk going underground, collaborating with exploitative actors within the labour supply chain, driving criminality and other high-risk activities.
The Government should stop blacklisting migrant workers who use the 3 + 1 Amnesty Program, an action which only discourages its use. The program should be conducted exclusively by the Immigration Department to avoid levying excessive charges on already-struggling workers and discourage profiteering.
*The Government must ensure all migrants have access to justice and the right to redress, including when they are caught and detained. This due diligence must be practiced by enforcement agencies and the judiciary to ensure accused migrants have a fair trial and a chance to defend themselves*.
Migrants must have guaranteed access to legal aid from their consent and knowledge to achieve these goals.
*Migrant workers play a huge part in securing economic growth for UAE, Dubai alone having almost 50% of its population as Migrant workers which is still going to be needed in years to come by various industries.
The Government of UAE must play a more active role in educating and sanitizing the UAE people that migrant workers are not their Criminals or even the cause of their own financial or employment problems.
*Migrants are in UAE because the UAE government, employers in formal and informal sectors and agents opened spaces for their work. So how can migrants be ‘illegal’? No person is illegal. We have always been keen to address and front these matters with all appropriate authorities to find the best solutions. This can be a good time for Government to take stock of what the real situation is and what determines what possible solutions might be, before taking any actions*
According to migrant communities and the Migrant workers' voice network ASSOCIATION concerned about migrants’ rights we suggest rights-based solutions on these concerns raised and related issues.
Report compiled by
MIGRANT WORKERS' VOICE NETWORK ASSOCIATION.