Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 0100 EAT on Thursday 23rd June 2022.
Labour export firms have rejected a directive by the ministry of Internal Affairs to conduct body organ examinations for all migrant workers at the Bukoto-based UMC Victoria hospital which belongs to businessman Sudhir Rupaleria.
On May 27, 2022, Internal Affairs minister, Maj Gen (Rtd) Kahinda Otafiire, directed all labour export firms to take their clients to UMC Victoria hospital for body organ testing in a bid to minimize cases of the illegal internal tissue extraction in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).
“All Ugandans travelling to GCC for employment will need to undergo a check for internal organs and trauma injuries before leaving Uganda as well as at arrival into Uganda. The ministry of Internal Affairs shall be setting up an authorized centre…at Bukoto, Kampala at the premises of the former Kadic hospital (operated by UMC Victoria hospital, which is a UN and ISO accredited organization),” Otafiire’s letter reads in part.
On June 6, 2022, Dr Anuraga Shah, the managing director of UMC Victoria hospital wrote inviting all labour export firms to the inauguration of the body organ testing centre. However, Baker Akantambira, the chairman of Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA) fired back, saying they cannot associate with an illegality.
“I write to disassociate ourselves from you, your facility, and from any irregular initiatives aimed at imposing charges on migrant workers. We restrict ourselves to the bilateral agreements that were signed between Uganda and partner states as well as guidance from the regulating ministry (ministry of the Gender of Labour and Social Development,” Akantambira’s response to Anuraga reads in part.
Internal Affairs ministry spokesperson, Simon Peter Mundeyi earlier confirmed that the ministry would enforce the directive to test body organs purposely to address numerous outcries that Ugandans going for external labour were being exploited by employers to the extent of removing their internal organs.
UAERA spokesperson, Ronnie Mukundane, confirmed that as labour exporters they cannot be the party to illegality since UMC Victoria hospital is not among the health amenities certified by GCC to test Ugandans going for external labour.
Betty Amongi, the minister for Gender has also written to Gen Otafiire, reminding him that it is her ministry that leads in any negotiations and regulations regarding migrant workers. Amongi says the proposal of setting up an authorized medical centre to test for the presence of internal organs like liver, pancreas, kidney functioning or full body examination for trauma and related ailments and eye checks must conform to the existing framework provided for under the current bilateral labour agreement or use the existing accredited medical facilities to implement his directive.
“Hon minister, the medical centres licensed under these frameworks do exist, and GCC countries verified and also accredited them with a GCC accreditation as the only ones acceptable to them under our bilateral agreements. New hospitals or medical facilities can only be added and accredited after an agreement is reached with the countries concerned,” Amongi’s letter to Otafiire reads in part.
At least 28 Ugandans according to the Uganda Human Rights Commission report shared with parliament died in the Arab world in 2021. Similarly, 21 Ugandans trafficked for local and external labour died mysteriously according to a report by the trafficking in person department at the ministry of Internal Affairs.