Last Updated: Wednesday, 23 April 2014, 10:56 GMT

2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uganda

Publisher United States Department of State
Publication Date 27 June 2011
Cite as United States Department of State, 2011 Trafficking in Persons Report - Uganda, 27 June 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e12ee3c8.html [accessed 23 April 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 fishing, agriculture, mining, stone quarrying, brick making, road construction, car washing, scrap 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 participate in illegal border smuggling of various goods, including counterfeit items and illicit drugs. Karamojong women and children are subjected to domestic servitude and forced cattle herding in Karamoja, and are transported to Kampala and other urban areas by traffickers who force them to beg in the streets, or engage in prostitution or domestic servitude. During the reporting period, Ugandan sex trafficking victims were discovered in Denmark, Oman, and Malaysia. Security companies and employment agencies in Kampala continued to recruit Ugandans to work as security guards, laborers, and drivers in the Middle East; some workers reported conditions indicative of forced labor, including passport withholding, nonpayment of wages and lack of food. South Asian and Chinese migrant workers are subjected to forced labor in Uganda in construction, transportation, trade, and service activities, and South Asian crime networks transport South Asian children to the country for prostitution. Children from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Burundi, Kenya, Tanzania, and Sudan are subjected to forced agricultural labor and prostitution in Uganda. 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 that time, some Ugandan children remain captive with LRA elements currently located in the DRC, Central African Republic, and southern Sudan.

The Government of Uganda does not fully comply with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking; however, it is making significant efforts to do so. While the government began two prosecutions of four suspected trafficking offenders, among the first to be charged under Uganda's 2009 anti-trafficking law, there were no convictions during the reporting period and no action taken in 16 trafficking investigations outstanding since 2009. While the protection and prevention provisions of the 2009 anti-trafficking act have not been fully implemented or funded, the government referred over 150 trafficking victims to government and NGO care centers. The government monitored the activities of the 20 licensed external labor recruiting agencies and barred them from sending Ugandans to work as domestic employees abroad due to the high risk of exploitation; however the government also reissued a license to a recruiting agency connected to a past alleged trafficking case of domestic workers to Iraq.

Recommendations for Uganda: Increase efforts to prosecute, convict, and punish trafficking offenders; investigate and punish labor recruiters responsible for knowingly sending Ugandans into situations of forced labor abroad; finalize regulations to fully implement the protection and prevention provisions of the 2009 anti-trafficking act; institute a unified system for documenting and collecting data on human trafficking cases for use by law enforcement, labor, and social welfare officials; establish formal procedures for government officials to proactively identify trafficking victims among vulnerable populations and refer them to care; and launch a nationwide anti-trafficking public awareness campaign.

Prosecution

The Government of Uganda maintained its anti-trafficking law enforcement efforts, reporting two pending prosecutions under the anti-trafficking law during the reporting period; however, there were no convictions. The 2009 Prevention of Trafficking in Persons 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. The Ugandan Police Force's (UPF) Child and Family Protection Unit (CFPU) did not report an aggregate number of investigations, prosecutions, or convictions for the reporting period; none of the 16 alleged child trafficking cases reported in the UPF's 2009 Crime Report resulted in prosecutions or convictions. In November 2010, a Kampala court charged two pastors and an alleged accomplice under the anti-trafficking law for transporting a 17-year-old girl from Soroti District to Kampala and fraudulently obtaining a passport in her name with the intent of taking her to the United Arab Emirates; the suspects were granted bail pending prosecution. In February 2011, a Kampala court charged two suspects with trafficking for allegedly misrepresenting employment opportunities when recruiting and sending two Ugandan women to Malaysia, where they were forced into prostitution to pay off large debts; the suspects remain in prison pending a decision in this case. Other suspected trafficking cases were settled by local police who facilitated mediation between trafficking offenders and victims, with some suspects being released after they returned the victim to his or her family and paid lost wages – an insufficient penalty to deter trafficking crimes. During the year, police intercepted at least three buses, one containing 38 children, from the Karamoja region bound for Kampala; authorities believe the suspects intended to use the children for forced begging or domestic servitude. Since 2009, trainers from the UPF's CFPU have provided anti-trafficking training to over 3,500 police recruits and more comprehensive training to 800 officers in criminal investigation courses. The government cooperated with the Governments of Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, DRC, Nigeria, and Malaysia on several potential human trafficking cases; for example, in September 2010, Ugandan police rescued three Tanzanian children and returned them to authorities in Tanzania. The police continued to operate a hotline for reporting trafficking cases that received trafficking-related tips during the year. Ugandan People's Defense Force operations against the LRA in neighboring countries led to the recovery and repatriation of an unknown number of Ugandan child trafficking victims. During the reporting period, there were no allegations of complicity among the police or Ugandan peacekeepers abroad.

Protection

The government sustained its moderate levels of protection for child victims during the reporting period. It failed, however, to draft implementing regulations or allocate funding for the application of the anti-trafficking law's victim protection provisions. Local police 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 has not developed procedures for the systematic identification of victims among high risk groups; as a result, potential victims were sometimes prosecuted for immigration or prostitution violations and children in prostitution detained during police sweeps were released without care. During the reporting period, the government identified 245 potential trafficking victims, including 83 children recovered from LRA captivity in neighboring countries, 156 internal cases, 12 Ugandans trafficked abroad, and 22 foreigners trafficked into Uganda. The government assisted in the repatriation of six Ugandan victims from abroad, including three from Iraq, two from Malaysia, and one from Oman. During the year, the UPF referred 77 of the internal child trafficking victims it identified to a local NGO's shelter in Kampala. Its memorandum of understanding with the same NGO sustained the presence of the NGO's social workers in three police stations, where they assisted trafficking victims with legal, medical, psychological, and family tracing services. During the reporting period, the Ugandan military's Child Protection Unit in Gulu received and debriefed 83 returned children who had been abducted by the LRA, before referring them to NGO-run rehabilitation centers for six weeks of care.

The Ministry of Gender, Labor, and Social Development (MGLSD) continued to remove Karamojong children in possible trafficking situations from Kampala's streets and transferred several hundred to two MGLSD-operated shelters in Karamoja that provided food, medical treatment, counseling, and family tracing. The ministry also operated a facility in Kampala for the initial intake of street children; however, it is unknown whether trafficking victims received services here, as the facility did not screen for trafficking victimization. There were, however, no similar government-funded or -operated facilities or services for adult trafficking victims. While the Ministry of Internal Affairs can permit foreign victims to remain in Uganda during investigation of their cases and provide residency and work permits, such benefits were not granted during the year. The government encouraged trafficking victims to testify against their exploiters and at least one victim did so during the reporting period.

Prevention

The Ugandan government made minimal efforts to prevent human trafficking during the year. The Ministry of Labor barred labor recruitment agencies from recruiting Ugandans to work as domestic servants in the Middle East, but continued to allow them to recruit guards, drivers, and laborers. The government did not conduct anti-trafficking educational campaigns during the year and remains without a national action plan to guide its efforts to combat trafficking. The interagency Task Force for the Elimination of Human Sacrifice, which is also responsible for coordinating anti-trafficking activities, met during the reporting period to continue to strategize on actions to address human sacrifice and trafficking. In February 2011, the High Court in Masindi sentenced a man to 50 years' imprisonment under the anti-trafficking law for abducting a 7-year-old boy and removing his genitals. Two additional suspects were exonerated, while a third suspect was lynched by the community.

In the previous reporting period, the External Labor Unit (ELU) of the MGLSD suspended the license of an employment agency pending investigation into allegations that it fraudulently recruited women for work in Iraq; however, in December 2010, the MGLSD renewed its license, with the government taking no civil or criminal action against this agency. MGLSD officials reported that there was insufficient evidence that the agency fraudulently recruited the women or knowingly sent them into situations of forced labor abroad. 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 the labor recruiting agency, alleging that the agency trafficked them and approximately 150 other women to Iraq, that the IGP knew they were being abused and failed to carry out his constitutional duty to protect them, and that the DPP subsequently failed to prosecute the recruiting agency; hearing of the case remains pending. During the reporting period, the MGLSD's labor inspectors conducted no inspections of exploitative or forced child labor and initiated no criminal cases involving such crimes. The small number of labor inspectors and limited resources precluded inspections in the rural areas or the informal sector. In late 2010, the MGLSD's Child Labor Unit received $6,087, in addition to its usual budget, to finalize the National Action Plan on the Worst Forms of Child Labor, which has been in draft form since 2007. The government did not make efforts to reduce the demand for commercial sex acts. The government provided anti-trafficking training to members of the Ugandan armed forces prior to their deployment abroad on international peacekeeping missions. Uganda is not a party to the 2000 UN TIP Protocol.

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