The government of Uganda said on Friday it will stop sending housemaids to Saudi Arabia, eclipsing a deal between the two nations to ship workers to the wealthy Gulf nation amid complaints of poor conditions and mistreatment.
The ban will remain until working conditions in Saudi Arabia are “deemed fitting,” the Ugandan government said.
The two nations had signed a deal in July for the deployment of university graduates to work in oil-rich Saudi Arabia. It was seen as a way of addressing high unemployment rates among young people in Uganda.
But the Ugandan government has gotten complaints of workers being treated inhumanely by their employers in Saudi Arabia, according to the Ministry of Gender, Labor and Social Welfare.
The ban also comes after an audio recording was widely circulated this week on social media of Ugandans in Saudi Arabia who said they were being tortured and imprisoned.
According to official Ugandan figures, some 500 housemaids have shipped to the wealthy Arab nation since the deal took effect.
However, an immigration official at Entebbe Airport, speaking on condition of anonymity, said about 100 Ugandans on average leave each day to seek work in Saudi Arabia.
Indonesia, Ethiopia and the Philippines have banned the flow of migrant workers to Saudi Arabia until they could be assured the workers were given basic labor rights.
Scores of Ugandan migrants have been arrested and deported from Saudi Arabia and other Arab nations, and some Ugandans have died in confinement, such as Flora Ritah Nantezza who died in a Dubai jail.
Ugandan Fatima Nambi is jailed in Kuwait on charges of carrying a baby outside wedlock.
Ugandan President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni recently returned from a two-day state visit to Saudi Arabia commending efforts to improve trade and investment relations between the two countries but making no mention of protections for migrant workers.
(Reporting by Yasin Kakande, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change