The Ugandan government has banned its citizens from taking jobs as domestic workers in Saudi Arabia, claiming they are often abused by their employers.
Muruli Wilson Mukasa, minister of gender, labour and social development, said on Friday that the government continued “to receive information of our people being subjected to inhuman treatment at the hands of the employers in Saudi Arabia”.
“The ban will remain in force until the conditions are deemed fitting,” Mukasa said in a letter sent to the ministry of foreign affairs.
Uganda’s Independent magazine said the letter came days after an audio recording cicrulated on social media in which a number of Ugandan women claimed to be in prison in Saudi Arabia and in which they told stories of abuse.
— Uganda Radio Network (@ugandarn) January 22, 2016
“This recording resulted in a lot of public outcry and many think it could have been the peak for government’s final decision on the matter,” the paper said.
The plight of migrant workers in Saudi Arabia
The decision came six months after Saudi Arabia and Uganda signed a memorandum of understanding that enabled Ugandan domestic workers to seek employment in Saudi Arabia. It was seen as a way of addressing high unemployment rates among young people in Uganda.
“Our expectation were that with the signing of the agreement, trafickking in persons to Saudi Arabia would stop,” Mukasa said.
Uganda becomes the fourth country after Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Philippines to ban their nationals from traveling to Saudi to work as domestic workers, over concerns of abuse.
According to Ugandan figures, about 500 housemaids have gone to Saudi Arabia since the deal took effect.