January 9—Uganda and Saudi Arabia have signed a General Labour Recruitment Bilateral Agreement which for the first time allows Ugandan professionals to seek employment in one of the biggest countries in that region.
Janat Mukwaya, the gender, labour and social development minister signed on behalf of the Uganda government and said, “Originally Uganda had an agreement with Saudi Arabia to recruit only domestic workers. However with the new agreement, all professions will be allowed. We also signed off on the amended Labour Agreement on Domestic Workers earlier signed in 2015 to specifically streamline the operations of the labour externalization sector with focuses on fighting against trafficking and violation of workers’ rights.”
Ali Bin Nasser Al Ghafis, the Minister of Labour and Social Development represented the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Mukwaya said the agreement now allows licensed Ugandan companies to recruit professionals and non-skilled workers including doctors, nurses, engineers, drivers, carpenters, welders and domestic workers to get jobs in Saudi Arabia subject to the needs of the relevant Saudi authorities.
Until now, the situation had been fluid on a case by case basis which often allowed loopholes for Ugandans to be exploited. “Both countries agreed to step up their labour management and regulation mandates to ably weed out exploiters and ensure protection of the workers’ rights,” Mukwaya said.
She visited the country towards the end of last year to follow up on the implementation of earlier labour export commitments made by the two countries in late 2016 and January 2017.
Permanent secretary, Pius Bigirimana said following the signing of the new agreements, the Saudi Arabian Embassy in Kampala is soon expected to resume the issuance of visas.
“The Embassy stopped issuing labour export visas when we imposed a ban on export of domestic workers on January 22, 2016 in response to reports of violation of their rights. The purpose of the ban was to stop migrant workers from getting into hostile domestic working conditions,” Bigirimana said.
During the same visit, Mukwaya and the Uganda Embassy in Riyadh officials made contact with officials from the governments of Kuwait and Oman aimed at establishing bilateral arrangements on Labour Migration management. A follow-up visit involving Ministers and their technical teams is scheduled for next month.