Report on Migration Governance and Diplomacy Launched in Uganda

Experts from the African Union, Intergovernmental Authority on Development, East African Community and EUI alumni on Wednesday July 20,2022 converged at Fairway Hotel in Kampala to discuss research on Migration Governance & Diplomacy.


The high-level event, organized by the European University Institute (EUI) and Uganda Council on Foreign Relations (UCFR), was conducted by the Uganda Council on Foreign Relations in partnership with the EUI with the aim to better understand the dynamics associated with migration governance and diplomacy.


Speaking during the launch, Grace Edward Galabuzi, Executive Director Makerere University Institute of Social Research (MISR) also a member of UCFR, revealed that the report analyses migration as an important area for Ugandan’s policy-making and identifies potential new directions in Uganda’s approach to the foreign policy and diplomatic dimensions of migration policy and makes recommendations for future policy development.


” Uganda has come to be defined by its generous refugee hosting model, a novel, internationally recognized permissible approach to receiving and integrating displaced people. But its troubled history has also led to the displacement of Uganda natives across the globe, creating a sizeable Ugandan diaspora in Africa.

More recently, economic challenges at home have motivated a concerted effort to systematize labor migration or labor export as a strategy for human resource management and economic development. So, while Uganda has been hailed as having a permissible emigration model, particularly in relation to the absorption of subjects of forced displacement due to political instability in the region, the government has also identified migration as an important source of employment and economic development.”


Galabuzi explained that the report focuses on the cross-border dimensions of international migration and draws into focus the migration diplomacy capacities of governments to secure the well-being of Ugandan citizens.


”In particular, labor migration is seen as a potential solution to youth unemployment and as a source of remittances. A closer look at migration governance in tandem with the relevant migration. Diplomacy activities are therefore warranted. This means a focus on migration governance that involves the activities of both state and non-state actors involved in these processes with the aim to ensure safe passage and benefits for individuals involved in cross-border mobility, their families and communities,” Galabuzi explained.


While delivering a keynote speech at the launch, Gen Odongo explained how migration processes, migration issues are aiding governmental and non-governmental stakeholders to solicit better, more robust and nuanced.


”For countries such as Uganda, there is need to better understand the key elements that constitute the migration process, including the push and pull drivers, determinants, recruitment processes, the frequency and routes of migration. Most importantly, there is an urgent need to bring migration to the top of the policy agenda of African governments and civil society and to establish effective migration governance by; formulating comprehensive national migration strategies; enhancing the policy capabilities of the key institutions with a mandate on migration; and, developing inclusive collaborative platforms for the relevant institutions to engage with one another,” said Odongo.


He added, “African governments have not tended to view migration as a priority issue, not least because they face other serious problems, among them domestic and regional conflicts, terrorism, extreme poverty, and natural and human-made disasters.”


Here are some of the recommendations in the report


  1. The most immediate task relates to the ongoing effort to complete the Labor Migration Policy to provide a definitive expression of the government’s commitment to the labor migration project and to help articulate the principles, values and norms that guide migration governance for the country. An overarching labor migration policy would give clear direction to the development of a suitable labor migration regime. The policy should be the outcome of consultation with all key stakeholders, country-specific and context-sensitive, and be aligned with international standards, continental frameworks, regional instruments and best practices.


  1. The legislative work on Bill 30, the reform of the Employment Act, 2005 has lagged and the Parliamentary Committee on Gender, Labor and Social Development on the Employment (Amendment), 2019 has reiterated its call for the need to move forward. The Committee recommended that the mover of the amendment and the Ministry complete the harmonization of their positions that began in March 2021 so that the bill can move forward.


  1. The government should enhance migration policy development capacity by concentrating policy coordination in the inter-ministerial National Coordination Mechanism. This would raise its profile within the bureaucracy and give it distinctive powers to manage migration governance at the national level. This would cover areas of policy development such as migration and development; migrant return and reintegration; the protection of migrant workers in Uganda; addressing brain drain, identifying critical skills and attracting migrant labor to those sectors in Uganda.


  1. The existing institutional structures responsible for labor migrant regulation are subject to a fragmented framework. Moreover, serious capacity deficits exist regarding the External Employment Unit (EEU). The government should ensure an appropriate level of financial and technical support for the EEU given the demands being put on it by the expansion of the Labor Externalization Programme. Another key existing office is the Diaspora Office in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Its mandate needs to be clarified and it should be resourced sufficiently to undertake the task of attracting and integrating returning Ugandans.


  1. Government support for research, generation of labor migration data and analysis of migrant workers from and into Uganda’s labor market is essential as is the development of tools to ensure greater access to existing government data for policy research by academics and civil society. Part of that generation of data would mean including a labor migration module in the Labor Force Survey.


  1. The development of a Labor Market Information System (LMIS) will facilitate the collection of labor market data including data on international and labor migration. Currently, this is done through the National Population and Housing Census, the National Household Survey and data collected by the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Development (MGLSD) on migrant workers.


There are real limitations in this mode of data collection. There is also data collected through work permit processes and on international migration but it is not generally analyzed. The government should also consider open-source access to the existing labor market and migration data.


  1. The Government should address the protection needs of Ugandan migrant workers in other countries and regions of destination outside of the Middle East by setting up or strengthening up consular offices in every country where there is a sizable number of Uganda migrant workers and empower the office to maintain close contact with the

migrant workers. These would be responsible for monitoring the duration of migrant worker contracts, renewals, extensions, terminations and return home if necessary.


  1. The government should undertake an assessment of the framework of the contractual agreements that migrant workers enter into with the private employment agencies to ensure that workers’ rights (especially as regards working conditions and the existing labor, welfare and social security systems) in receiving countries are protected.


  1. The Government of Uganda should ensure that Private Employment Agencies (PEAS) in both Uganda and the receiving countries facilitate the release and repatriation of Ugandan migrant workers, some of whom are vulnerable to emotional, physical and sexual exploitation due to their work arrangements, and investigate and prosecute PEAS that recruit Ugandans on the basis of false promises and subject them to forced labor and prostitution abroad.


  1. Ugandan workers’ organizations and NGOs should be involved in the dissemination of human rights information to migrant workers while they are still in the pre-departure stage. This information should include education on their rights as Ugandan citizens, the mechanisms in place to protect and defend their rights, and opportunities for social and economic integration.


  1. At a regional level, the Ugandan government should commit to speedy ratification, domestication and implementation of regional instruments, particularly those relating to free movement protocols, including the:


  1. Protocol on the Establishment of the East African Community Common Market


  1. The EAC Regional Strategic Framework for e-immigration (2014)


  1. EAC Youth Policy (2016).

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