Internal and external security agencies are probing a case of a woman who was lured with $900 monthly housemaid salary but ended up being sold to an Iraqi man for marriage.
Reportedly married to a security officer, the woman whose name has been concealed as the hunt for the whole racket that was behind her trafficking continues, travel records obtained by the Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control (DCIC) show that she was taken out of the country on October 17 last year.
The case has since been handed over to Ministry of Internal Affairs’ trafficking in persons national coordination department headed by Assistant Commissioner of Police-ACP Julius Twinomujuni. Agnes Igoye, the deputy national coordinator, confirmed that the woman is stuck in Iraq and her life is in danger.
Security agencies such as External Security Organization (ESO), Criminal Investigations Directorate (CID) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have all been brought on board to ensure that she is rescued.
How it started
Information collected by security agencies indicate that the scheme to smuggle the woman now stuck in Iraq involved her uncle’s friend who has since been identified as Boaz.
When Uganda was in its second Covid-19 lockdown in June last year, the victim was approached by Boaz who claimed that he had someone who wanted an experienced housemaid with ability to speak Arabic.
The woman who is be referred to as Shifah for purposes of identity protection reportedly learnt Arabic at school and she is able to speak it fluently.
Igoye says Boaz later connected Shifah to a one James Ssempijja who also convinced her that there was a Saudi Arabian man who was in need of an experienced housemaid and able to speak Arabic.
Ssempijja told the woman that she was going earn USD900 translating into 3.4million Shillings every month. Security has since established that Ssempijja posed as a labour officer attached to Wakiso district headquarters.
Facts gathered indicate that Shifah moved to meet Ssempijja at Wakiso district with medical examination obtained from Kibuli hospital as she had been guided. Ssempijja met her outside the premises.
Igoye explains that the records show the woman now crying for help was put on an Egyptian Airline alongside other eight girls on October 17, 2021. Unfortunately, Ssempijja and his accomplice identified as Lillian whom they met at the airport told them that they were heading to Iraq not Saudi Arabia as they had been told earlier.
“These were indicators that they were headed for trouble but they kept quiet and proceeded to board an Egyptian Airline,” Igoye says. “They arrived in Iraq on October 17, 2021 and they were received by a person who confiscated their passports. This was also another indicator.”
The internal affairs team has since established that Shifah was handed over to a youthful man called Abu Mustafa Muhammad who welcomed her with a lot of excitement. Abu told her that she was going to be paid USD250 but she protested saying she had been promised USD900.
After two months on job as a maid, she was paid USD500 meaning she had earned USD250 each month. When she again protested the lesser pay, Abu flew into Uganda early this year and met Ssempijja. It is alleged that Abu who had already picked sexual interests in Shifah struck a deal with Ssempijja and paid him dowry.
Upon returning to Iraq, Shifah heard Abu telling his mother that he had paid everything to marry her. After sometime, Abu boldly told Shifah that he had paid for her to get married to him.
Shifah rejected Abu’s marriage advances. This irked Abu and he became violent. When the violence unleashed against her became unbearable, Shifah called her husband in Kawempe for help.
The husband reported a case at Kawempe police station two weeks ago. Police also brought the case to the attention of the anti-human trafficking office at the internal affairs ministry. Ssempijja and Lillian have since been arrested.
However, security is worried that other girls who were also trafficked to Iraq on the same day with Shifah could be facing similar challenges. Shifah’s husband being a security person, his name has also been protected.
It is also said that Shifah kept her travel plans a secret and only revealed to the husband days to her travel. This is why security suspects that Shifah might have made attempts to return home but in vain since her passport was confiscated upon arrival.
Igoye cautions people to be very cautious against any labour export company or group that tells them to keep their travel a secret or switch a journey meant for Saudi Arabia to Oman or Iraq. In most cases, Igoye explains that traffickers tell their victims to go one by one to pick their passports and immediately confiscate their travel documents.
Ronnie Mukundane, the spokesperson for Uganda Association of External Recruitment Agencies (UAERA), said there are several groups of traffickers who they have often alerted their line ministry and CID about.
Mukundane says the first pointer of a labor trafficker is giving the alleged clients visiting visas and no return tickets.
“People encounter several challenges, it is worse when they have travelled irregularly or trafficked because that way they have no one to run to or inform,” Mukundane said.
Lt Gen Joseph Musanyufu, the permanent secretary for ministry of internal affairs, recently released a report showing that 21 victims of external and internal trafficking were discovered dead in 2021.
Monica Karungi committed suicide in Dubai on May 1, this year after she was also trafficked there with a visiting Visa. Although her body hasn’t been brought back, it is believed she was tired of sexual exploitation.