Government says most of the affected are those whose initial work permits expired and were never renewed.
More than 75,000 Ugandans are illegally staying in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Internal Affairs ministry has said.
Mr Simon Peter Mundeyi, the ministry spokesperson, explained that most of the affected are those whose initial work permits expired and were never renewed.
“Most of these travelled on one month visitors’ visas and when they reached there, they obtained odd jobs, contrary to UAE laws. When the visas expired, they couldn’t have them extended. For others, their visas expired in the process of securing jobs,” Mr Mundeyi told journalists in Kampala yesterday.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), which borders Oman and Saudi Arabia, is a federation of six emirates – Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Sharjah, Ajman, Umm Al-Quwain, and Fujairah.
He explained said there are about 100,000 Ugandans living in the UAE and of these, only 25,000 went there legally through licensed recruitment agencies.
He said this means that 75,000 of them are there illegally while 1,500 are in various detention centres.
This comes as the government and the Opposition National Unity Platform (NUP) party continue to repatriate the Ugandans stranded in the UAE detention centres.
Mr Mundeyi added that those in detention centres were found without work visas.
“Majority travel on their own and decide to look for odd jobs whereas others are trafficked by unscrupulous labour agents who promise them good jobs only to reach there and engage in odd jobs without work visas. Their passports are retained and subjected to abuse due circumstances beyond their control,” he said.
He added: “Once they reach UAE, they report to their agents who keep them in some dormitories or hostels, locally known as Biyumba. Once they start living there, agents start taking them out to do some odd jobs, including prostitution and money that accrues is taken by the agents.”
Mr Mundeyi also revealed that recently, the UAE government offered amnesty to 1,500 Ugandan immigrants who were living in the country illegally and allowed them to register at the Al Awir immigration centre.
He explained that this was as a result of negotiations between the Ugandan and UAE governments, noting that these are some of the Ugandans who have since been helped to return home.
“This return is due to coordination efforts by the government through ministries of Gender, Internal Affairs, Foreign Affairs and Finance as well as the government of UAE. The 156, who returned over the weekend, are part of the 1,500 who are set to benefit from the waiver,” Mr Mundeyi explained.
He added if any foreigner is found staying illegally in any country, they are subjected to a fine before they are deported. However, he said Ugandans who are in UAE illegally will not pay the fine due to the waiver.
“We have now started on the process of facilitating them to return home without having to pay for illegal stay fines. They are advised to take advantage of the illegal stay waiver amnesty granted by the UAE government.
This is to stay in force up to the end of October 2022. They are advised to report to immigration centres to commence their return process,” he said.