Last Updated: Friday, 19 December 2014, 13:25 GMT

2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uganda

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 19 June 2012
Cite as United States Department of State, 2012 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uganda, 19 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fe30c88a.html [accessed 21 December 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

UGANDA (Tier 2)

Uganda is a source and destination country for men, women, and children subjected to forced labor and sex trafficking. Ugandan children are exploited in forced labor within the country in agriculture, cattle herding, mining, stone quarrying, brick making, car washing, scrap metal collection, bars and restaurants, and the domestic service sector, and are exploited in prostitution. Ugandan children are taken to other East African countries for similar purposes, and are also forced to engage in criminal activities. Karamojong women and children are particularly vulnerable to domestic servitude, commercial sexual exploitation, and forced begging due to dire economic and social conditions in the Karamoja region. Children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and South Sudan are subjected to forced agricultural labor and prostitution in Uganda. Prisoners in pre-trial detention engage in forced labor alongside convicts; pre-trial detainees make up 56 percent of Uganda's prison population. Until August 2006, the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) abducted children and adults in northern Uganda to serve as soldiers, sex slaves, and porters. While there have been no LRA attacks in Uganda since 2006, Ugandan children previously abducted remain unaccounted for, and some may remain captive with LRA elements currently located in the DRC, Central African Republic, and South Sudan.

During the reporting period, Ugandan trafficking victims were reported in the UK, Denmark, Iraq, South Sudan, Kenya, China, Thailand, and Malaysia. In addition, Uganda's INTERPOL office reported Ugandan women trafficked to India, Egypt, Afghanistan, Indonesia, and the United Arab Emirates. During the year, press reports highlighted the forced prostitution of Ugandan women in Malaysia after being recruited for work as hair dressers, nannies, and hotel staff; some of the women transit through China and Thailand – where they may also encounter forced prostitution – en route to Malaysia.

The Ugandan government does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. The government identified five trafficking cases during the year and prosecuted three of these cases but did not convict any forced labor or sex trafficking offenders under Uganda's 2009 Prevention of Trafficking in Persons (PTIP) Act. The government also established a counter trafficking in persons (CTIP) office – as mandated by the 2009 PTIP Act – to lead national anti-trafficking efforts and develop a national action plan. The government referred victims who came forward to the care of IOM but did not provide financial or material support for this care. The government's one-person External Labor Unit (ELU) continued to monitor the activities of licensed external labor recruiting agencies, provided pre-departure seminars for Ugandans recruited to work oversees, and conducted an official visit to Iraq to investigate trafficking allegations. However, its efforts to adequately monitor external labor recruiting agencies were hampered by a continued lack of financial and human resources.

Recommendations for Uganda: Continue to implement comprehensive anti-trafficking legislation and build the capacity of the CTIP office and other governmental and non-governmental stakeholders; increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders; institute a unified system of documenting and collecting data on human trafficking cases for use by law enforcement, labor, and social welfare officials; investigate and punish labor recruiters and criminal entities responsible for knowingly sending Ugandans into forced labor or prostitution abroad; ensure use of a definition of trafficking in persons consistent with the 2009 PTIP Act and 2000 UN TIP Protocol when implementing the act, identifying victims, and combating trafficking generally; finalize regulations to fully implement the protection and prevention provisions of the 2009 PTIP Act; launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign with a particular focus on forced labor; establish policies and procedures for government officials to identify and interview potential trafficking victims proactively and transfer them to the care, when appropriate, of local organizations; train Ugandan officials serving in overseas postings in victim identification techniques; and increase the number of staff and funding dedicated to the anti-trafficking efforts within the ELU, the Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD), and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA).

Prosecution

The Government of Uganda maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts during the year, acquitting two suspected traffickers, prosecuting two additional suspects, and initiating two additional investigations, though it did not convict forced labor or sex trafficking offenders. The 2009 PTIP Act prohibits all forms of trafficking, prescribing punishments of 15 years to life imprisonment, penalties which are sufficiently stringent and commensurate with those prescribed for other serious crimes, such as rape. During the year, a Ugandan court acquitted two alleged traffickers because the alleged offenses occurred prior to ratification of the act; the government did not retry the offenders for the domestic servitude of a child under other relevant legal provisions. In two of the five investigations that began during the reporting period, the government charged – in August and September 2011 – two suspects with human trafficking for recruiting Ugandan women into forced prostitution in East Asia. The investigation of two additional offenders also allegedly involved in the recruitment of women for forced prostitution in East Asia remains pending from the previous reporting period, as does an April 2010 case involving the trafficking of people from the Karamoja region to urban centers in Uganda. In 2011, the Uganda Police Force (UPF) and Ugandan INTERPOL cooperated with Malaysian, Thai, Chinese, Kenyan, and Rwandan government counterparts to investigate alleged trafficking cases.

The government prosecuted one internal domestic servitude case during the year which resulted in an acquittal; however, it did not identify cases of children involved in other forms of forced labor or prostitution. In November 2011, the MIA trained 598 police cadets from Uganda, South Sudan, and Somalia on identifying trafficking cases. In December 2011, the MIA also trained 22 immigration officers on victim identification and case investigation. In March 2011, MIA and police officials conducted two sessions as part of a broader ILO training of 35 officials from the MIA, UPF, the MGLSD, and NGOs on human trafficking and the 2009 PTIP Act. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) did not provide training on victim identification to its consular staff. However, MIA immigration officials working in Ugandan embassies and consulates abroad routinely receive training in victim identification. Additionally, staff within the Uganda Prisons Service is complicit in forced labor for engaging pre-trial detainees in hard labor alongside convicts.

Protection

The government made efforts to protect trafficking victims during the year, but it failed to draft implementing regulations or allocate funding for the implementation the 2009 anti-trafficking law's victim protection provisions. The government identified trafficking victims during the year but did not develop procedures for the systematic identification of victims among high risk groups. The Ugandan military did not provide comprehensive data on persons rescued from the LRA during its operations abroad. During the year, an NGO provided services, including counseling and vocational training, to 104 children removed from domestic servitude and prostitution. The government continued to provide short-term shelter, food, and medical care at police stations, while referring victims on an ad hoc basis to NGOs for long-term care and additional services. The government did not provide support to NGOs offering longer-term care. In Kampala, local police routinely took street children to an under-resourced MGLSD juvenile detention center that provided food, medical treatment, counseling, basic education, and family tracing. Children spent up to three months at the facility; some were returned to their families, but many others returned to the streets again. There were no similar government-funded or operated facilities or services for adult trafficking victims. The law permits foreign trafficking victims to remain in Uganda during investigation of their cases and to apply for residency and work permits, but there were no reported cases involving foreign victims during the year. The government encouraged trafficking victims to testify against their exploiters; however, there was no evidence that victims did so during the year.

During the year, IOM repatriated 13 Ugandan women from Malaysia and two from China; the Ugandan government provided travel documents to several of these trafficking victims, but did not fund their travel costs or provide medical care, shelter, counseling, or other assistance to these or other repatriated trafficking victims. The Ugandan honorary consul to Malaysia played an active role in supporting and assisting in the repatriation of Ugandan trafficking victims in Malaysia. Several Ugandan members of parliament visited Malaysia in March 2012 on a related fact-finding mission.

Prevention

The Ugandan government made increased efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year. In February 2012, the Minister of Internal Affairs, the lead ministry on anti-trafficking efforts, appointed a principal immigration officer to coordinate government anti-trafficking efforts and oversee the work of its newly established anti-trafficking office – the CTIP office. The establishment of the office fulfills a long-delayed mandate of the 2009 PTIP Act. In March 2012, the CTIP office established a national 14-member task force including representatives from the CTIP office, the Immigration Department, the UPF's child and family protection unit and special investigations unit, INTERPOL, the MGLSD, the MFA, the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Justice and Constitutional Affairs, the Directorate of Public Prosecutions, the Internal Security Organization, the External Security Organization, and the Karamoja affairs, disaster preparedness, and refugees offices within the prime minister's office. During the year, the CTIP office required task force members to submit reports on actions to combat trafficking by their respective agencies and began consultations necessary for drafting a national action plan. The government also conducted anti-trafficking educational campaigns through radio programs and community discussions during the year. Following the interception of several buses of children in the previous reporting period and a well-documented problem of forced begging by Karamojong children on Kampala's streets, in 2011 the MGLSD established road blocks along the Karamoja-Kampala corridor to identify potential child victims before they reached Kampala.

The MGLSD's ELU continued application of its 2008 policy prohibiting labor recruitment agencies from recruiting Ugandans to work as domestic servants, and monitored their recruitment of guards, drivers, and manual laborers for overseas employment. In 2011, the ELU visited Iraq to investigate allegations of trafficking of Uganda citizens in these countries and began drafting new guidelines for recruitment agencies. The ELU – with just one staff member – provided pre-departure seminars for 400 Ugandans leaving for work abroad, supplied sample contracts to recruitment agencies, and provided phone numbers for Ugandans to call should they need assistance while abroad. However, the government's oversight of overseas recruitment agencies remains inadequate and under-resourced.

In March 2011, five women repatriated from Iraq in 2009 filed a lawsuit against the attorney general, the inspector general of police (IGP), the director of public prosecution (DPP), and a labor recruitment agency alleging that the agency had trafficked 155 women to Iraq. The women alleged that the IGP knew the women would be exploited and failed to carry out his constitutional duty to protect them, and that the DPP subsequently failed to prosecute the recruitment agency. The case remains pending, and the plaintiffs' claim that many of the women sent to Iraq remain missing. In February 2011, a member of parliament filed a petition on behalf of 16 women repatriated from Iraq tasking parliament's gender and social development committee to investigate recruitment agencies; during the year, parliament took no action on this petition. The government investigated three cases of child sacrifice, two of which remain pending. In the third case, the government convicted one offender under its PTIP Act and sentenced this suspect to seven years' imprisonment for attempted child sacrifice. In March 2012, the government convicted a foreign national for possession of pornography and sentenced him to two years' imprisonment or a fine of equivalent to $2,500. The offender paid the fine and was released, but was immediately rearrested for the alleged sexual abuse of Ugandan children. The case was pending at the end of the reporting period. The government provided anti-trafficking training to members of the Ugandan armed forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions; an estimated 5,000 troops attended such trainings in 2011. Uganda is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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