An eight-week nationwide information campaign has been launched in Uganda to promote safe migration and to prevent irregular migration and human trafficking from, to and through the country.
The campaign is a joint initiative of government, the Inter-governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), the African Union and the International Organization for Migration. It is part of a broader European Commission funded regional effort in five of the six IGAD countries to ensure potential migrants are aware of the risks involved in irregular migration by land and sea.
According to the 2008 US State Department Human Trafficking Report, Uganda is a source and destination country for men, women and children trafficked for the purposes of forced labor and sexual exploitation. Ugandan children are trafficked within the country, as well as to Canada, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia.
Pakistani, Indian, and Chinese workers are reportedly trafficked to Uganda, and Indian networks traffic Indian children to the country for sexual exploitation. Children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi are trafficked to Uganda for agricultural labor and commercial sexual exploitation.
The joint information campaign seeks to target community leaders and local government officials, civil society groups as well as young people in secondary schools and youth associations through public service announcements, talk shows on national and commercial radio and television stations.
In a statement announcing the campaign, Uganda's State Minister for Internal Affairs Matia Kasaijja said the so-called benefits of irregular migration are nothing but a cruel illusion. He said government applauds this joint initiative and reiterates its commitment to cooperate with all national and international partners to identify practical solutions and humane responses to the challenges of irregular migration.
The positive contribution of Ugandan migrants to the Ugandan economy is well recognized, with close to one billion dollars remitted home in 2008. However there is considerable concern that an increasing number of Ugandans are taking greater risks to seek employment opportunities abroad through smuggling networks.
Jeremy Haslam, the International Organization for Migration's Chief of Mission in Uganda, noted that many Ugandans have been lured into irregular migration by conmen who promise better financial opportunities abroad. He said the reality is vastly different as many will later fall into the hands of criminals that force them into situations involving sexual or labour exploitation after they have already endured dangerous journeys to destination countries.
The information campaign comes just three weeks after parliament passed the Prevention of Trafficking in Persons Bill. The new law is intended to combat trafficking in persons and to provide legislation necessary for criminalizing the offence of the act. It also provides for protection, assistance and support to victims of trafficking in persons with full respect of their human rights.