The government of Uganda has agreed to a deal that allows citizens to work as house-maids in Jordan and the rest of the Middle East. According to NBS Uganda, government officials lifted a previous ban on the exportation of young women as domestic labor to all Middle Eastern countries, including Jordan. The labor bans were imposed following multiple complaints of exploitation, torture, and sexual harassment experienced by African nationals at the hands of their Arab employers.
The latest labor agreement was signed during a closed door meeting held last week between representatives of Jordan’s labor recruitment firms and Janat Mukwaya, Uganda’s minister of gender, labor, and social development. The deal includes an agreement to provide a Sh50,000 insurance and assurance fee for each domestic employee.
Driven by the lack of opportunities at home, Africa’s young people have traveled to the Middle East in droves in search of employment. Hundreds of thousands of them are now employed throughout the region, many of them as maids.
However, reports of mistreatment and abuse of Africans by their bosses has prompted a number of countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, and Uganda, to ban the recruitment of their citizens as domestic hires in the Middle East. In August, the death of Kenyan Mary Kibawana Kamajo, due to the cruel treatment she received from her Lebanese boss, sparked widespread outrage.
The Kafala System
Most domestic workers from Africa get their jobs through the “Kafala” visa sponsorship system, which requires migrant workers to seek permission from employers before relocating or changing jobs. The system ties the immigration status of a worker to the employer, giving the employer the power to repatriate them at will and even stop them from leaving the country.
Human rights groups have condemned the kafala system, describing it as a form of modern day slavery. There have been reports of domestic employees forced to work for very long periods with little or no breaks in-between. Workers are often deprived of food and other basic necessities, while being physically and verbally abused.