Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 1252 EAT on Friday 10th June 2022
Entebbe Chief Magistrate’s court has been fined a 24-year-old man Shs 2.2 million for promoting trafficking in persons and attempting to traffic 11 migrant workers to Saudi Arabia.
Sharif Mbabali, a resident of Kanawa, Wakiso district, was arrested last month after 11 girls, who lacked clearance from the ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to travel for work abroad, were intercepted at Entebbe international airport.
The girls are Sumaih Ndagire, Fausta Nanteza, Juliet Nantambi, Daniela Namakula, Betty Nakyeyune, Josephine Nankungu, Lydia Nampiima, Goretti Nalujja, Teddy Nalwoga, Rashidah Namugga and Nzerena Namugaba.
On Wednesday, chief magistrate Juliet Nakitende convicted Mbabali of intending to commit 11 counts of the offense of trafficking in persons. Nakitende fined him Shs 100,000 for each of the 11 counts – totaling to Shs 1.1 million. He was also fined Shs 100,000 for each of the 11 counts of promoting trafficking in persons, totaling to Shs 1.1 million.
Earlier, his lawyer Edward Mutakirwa asked the court for a non-custodial sentence since his client was a first-time offender and did not waste the court’s time. However, state attorney Janet Kitimbo did not object to the option of a fine, saying among others that Mbabali did not have a criminal record. Nakitende thereafter sentenced Mbabali to pay a fine of Shs 2.2 million for all the 22 counts.
The Employment (Recruitment of Ugandan migrant workers) Regulations 2021 Statutory Instrument 47 of 2021 among others, requires, labour companies to seek clearance from the Gender ministry to recruit and deploy Ugandans as migrant workers.
But the ministry had not cleared the eleven Ugandans and they were thereby not allowed to depart at Entebbe airport. The Uganda Police Annual Crime Report for 2021 shows that cases of trafficking in persons increased by 47 per cent from 214 cases registered in 2020 to 421 cases last year. The report adds that there were 1,148 victims of trafficking in 2021 compared to 666 victims in 2020. The majority of the victims are children and female adults.
The commonest forms of exploitation are labour, sexual, ritual, forced child marriage, forced marriage, and organ harvest among others. The top destinations for victims are United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and Iraq.