Publications by PLA


Author: PLA Uganda

This report is an assessment on schemes, routes and factors that promote the prevalence of human trafficking across borders in Uganda. This study has considered only confirmed victims of international trafficking (VITs) across borders between 2010 and 2016 and who are Ugandan adults. Uganda serves as a source, transit and destination point for VITs. Consistent documentation of VITs is a recent phenomenon.

To complement the existing interventions, PLA is implementing a project on combating human trafficking across the southern and eastern districts of Busia and Tororo (Malaba) and the Kampala Metropolitan area at the national level. In order for PLA to understand the situation of human trafficking across borders, PLA carried out a rapid assessment on human trafficking within Uganda with emphasis across the south and eastern district points of Busia and Tororo (Malaba). This study, therefore, targeted VITs within the greater Kampala Metropolitan area and the two border districts of Busia and Tororo as respondents. 

The main objective of the study was to generate data on the schemes, routes and factors that promote the prevalence of trafficking across border points with special reference to Busia and Malaba in Uganda. The study adopted the tracer methodology for the selection and identification of the VIT respondents. Sampling frames from the Coordination Office for Combating Human Trafficking (COCTIP) in Kampala for the Kampala Metropolitan and from the regional police offices at Malaba and Busia border points were constructed from the existing records of VITs between 2010 and 2016. A total of 137 VITs were initially traced by responsible officers attached to COCTIP and were connected to PLA field study staff and further explanations were given about the study objectives, confidentiality and protection of the respondents and the right to consent before the interview. Only 44 sampled elements consented and were interviewed within the limited study time limit. Key informant interviews were held with selected management of identified institutions involved in combating trafficking, external labour recruiting agencies from Kampala, law enforcement officers, opinion, religious and local technical and political leaders, staff from local and international civil society organisations (CSOs) working in the area of human and/or child trafficking and rights. A total of 42 key informant interviews were carried out.

Most of the VIT respondents reached were female (84%) within a youthful age range of 18-30 years (84.1%). However, 9.3% of the VIT respondents were below the age of 18 at the time of being trafficked. All VIT respondents were literate and fairly schooled, with most of them having secondary education and above. Most of the VIT respondents were one-time victims. Only 7% of the VITs were double- or multiple-time victims. Before being trafficked, nearly a third of the VIT respondents were unemployed (32.6%), while 25.4% were own account workers (including trade), 7% were working in the public sector, 23.3% were regularly paid private employees, 9.3% were doing housework and 2.3% were casual labourers.

More of the VIT respondents were taken to Saudi Arabia (37.2%), followed by Kuwait (18.6%), the United Arab Emirates (UAE-9.3%), Oman (7%), Kenya (7%), Qatar (4.7%), China (2.3%) and other countries (14%). The source of information about prospective employment in the country of destination and the encounter with perpetrators was initially provided and arranged mainly through friends and relatives, followed by recruitment agents (some of whom were former employees of registered recruitment agencies in the country). The main venue of negotiations with the perpetrators were the “office” of the perpetrator (58%), while other negotiations took place June 2016 7 PLATFORM FOR LABOUR ACTION ASSESSMENT ON SCHEMES, ROUTES AND FACTORS THAT PROMOTE PREVALENCE OF TRAFFICKING ACROSS BORDERS IN UGANDA on the street (19%), at the home of the perpetrator (7.0%), on Facebook/Whatsapp/the phone (5%) and at other places (11%). Most of the VIT respondents indicated that they were given the basic information about the prospective job offers, albeit not very truthful. Unfortunately, most of the VIT respondents (74%) did not consult any agency or person outside those involved in the negotiations to verify the information given during the negotiations. Qualitative data indicates that some of the victims did not know where and how to verify or cross-check such information. 

Several factors prompted the VIT respondents to take up the prospective job offers. Some of these factors are internal, while others are external. Unemployment, poverty, free tickets and visa arrangements, underemployment and poor pay, desperation, family and peer pressure are contributing factors. Other factors that contribute to trafficking are transit enablers such as the porous borders and also gaps in the recruitment laws; the lack of serious punishments for those who recruit people without licences, and lack of the capacity by the government to monitor and stop illegal recruitment agencies.

Most of the VIT respondents were offered domestic work (73%). Other VIT respondents were forced into commercial sex work (3%), smuggling (3%), or to work as farm attendants (5%) and casual labourers/family enterprise workers/house porters (16%). Most of the VIT respondents (78%) reported that the jobs offered in the country of destination were different from those promised in the country of origin during negotiations; 81% reported variations in salary and working conditions while in the country of destination. Other working conditions were described as “terrible” for most of the respondents. Most of the VIT respondents (75%) did not take immediate action about the observed variations in the job and working conditions in the country of destination. Several effects were suffered by VITs while in the country of destination. Half of the VIT respondents indicated that they suffered physical deprivation of sleep, food and light (51%), while 46% suffered constant poor health, 16.3% sexual abuse, 30% physical abuse/violence, 63% threats and intimidation, 60% physical and social isolation and 63% reported forced and heavy work.

Over half of the VIT respondents went through other countries like Kenya and Tanzania by road before proceeding to their final destinations (60%), sometimes using an organised network of agents throughout the transit, while 40% went directly through Entebbe International Airport. Over half went through the Malaba (12%) and Busia (44%) borders, while 4% went through the Mutukula border. For part of the journey, 44% of the VIT respondents travelled with the perpetrator, with 21% changing hands between different agents/perpetrators during part of the journey, and only one such VIT respondent complained when he/she changed hands between the agents/perpetrators. A fifth of the VIT respondents (19%) indicated that they used informal crossing points at Busia and Malaba; and of these, 32% were aware that they were taking illegal border routes to exit. Of the VIT respondents who went through formal immigration points (n=35), most (79%) lied to the immigration officers about the country of destination and the purpose of travel. With respect to experience after repatriation, only 25.6% of the VIT respondents reported and followed up the crime with the police after repatriation. However, only 9% reported that the offenders were arrested but later released on bond. The process of prosecution of the suspects was described as very challenging and costly to the VITs. That is one of the reasons why the level of prosecution of suspects is very low.

The level of awareness about human trafficking among the VIT was very low. Only 4% of the VIT respondents were aware about the human trafficking law; and they only became aware after they had experienced human trafficking. Several of the local leaders at the community level 8 PLATFORM FOR LABOUR ACTION ASSESSMENT ON SCHEMES, ROUTES AND FACTORS THAT PROMOTE PREVALENCE OF TRAFFICKING ACROSS BORDERS IN UGANDA June 2016 were not knowledgeable about human trafficking and the laws against human trafficking. Most of the existing CSO interventions against human trafficking are focused on children and mostly internal trafficking. Only two CSOs were currently supporting VITs, especially during repatriation at the time of the study. There are challenges related to the coordination of efforts for clearance, regulation, monitoring and follow-up and assistance of and to the externalisation of labour between different government departments such as the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development (MGLSD), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Internal Affairs. There is also a mismatch between the provision of the Prevention in Trafficking of Persons Act, 2009 and commitment in terms of resources and level of implementation. Some of the mandates provided under the Prevention in Trafficking of Persons Act, 2009, such as rehabilitation and psycho-social support, are not fully provided for with respect to resources and services to the VITs in Uganda.

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Platform for Labour Action (PLA) is a National Civil Society Organization that was founded in the year 2000. PLA is focused on promoting and protecting the rights of vulnerable and marginalized workers through empowerment of communities and individuals in Uganda.

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