How Govt Repatriated 23 Ugandans From Myanmar Rebels


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A total of 23 Ugandans, who had been trafficked to Myanmar over the past few years, returned home yesterday.

The group arrived aboard Ethiopian Airlines, which landed at Entebbe International Airport shortly before midday. They were warmly received by officials from the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Internal Affairs, as well as representatives from the International Organisation of Migration (IOM).

Their return marks the successful conclusion of months-long negotiations between the Ugandan government, their Thai counterparts, and the IOM. The plight of these Ugandans first came to light late last year when a video surfaced showing a Ugandan trapped in Myanmar pleading for rescue.

Ugandans repatriated from Mynmar

According to the video, several Ugandan youths with IT skills were lured to Thailand with promises of employment in the cryptocurrency industry.

Upon arrival in Thailand, the traffickers confiscated the group’s travel documents and transported them by road and water to Myanmar. Once in Myanmar, the victims were forced to work on farms and perform other menial jobs under harsh conditions.

When the Ugandan government learned of the youths’ predicament, they immediately reached out to the Thai government and established contact with the traffickers, who demanded a ransom for the release of the captives.

Uganda’s Ambassador to Thailand Betty Bigombe, however, said the government did not pay the ransom but it was persistent diplomatic efforts and collaboration with international partners that finally led to the safe return of the 23 Ugandans.

“As I talk now, we still have many other Ugandans locked up in there and we are trying to work hard to make sure they also return home like these others. We still have Ugandans, all other nationalities, for that matter, who are still being held,” Ms Bigombe said.

Some of the Ugandans released from Myanmar

She said the human trafficking racket targets people from poor countries, especially in Africa and Asia, adding that there are currently more than 100,000 foreigners trapped in Myanmar.

“…they (human traffickers) target mainly poor countries or developing countries to lure their citizens because today unemployment, especially for youth, is a major, major problem. Therefore, we have to see a way, a concerted way to stop this problem,” she said.

Mr Vincent Bagiire Waiswa, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said human trafficking has become a global problem that must be tackled at all levels.

“I want to say that human trafficking, which is a transnational crime, has become increasingly complex and dangerous, especially among the youth, women, and to some extent children, as you can see. The returnees we are receiving are young people,” he said.

Ugandans repatriated

Mr Bagiire urged Ugandans to be cautious of fraudulent employment schemes.

“The ministry, working with the Ministry of Internal Affairs, continues to work on preventing human trafficking through regional and international cooperation. Please tell your colleagues that this saying that there are jobs elsewhere is a lie. The jobs are here in this country and use your skills to secure the jobs,” he said.

Mr Sanusi Tejan Savage, the IOM head of mission to Uganda, said Prime Minister Robinah Nabbanja played a crucial role in ensuring the release of the Ugandans trapped in Myanmar.

Mr Savage said Ms Nabbanja met with the Director General of IOM in Rome, Italy, earlier this year and raised the issue of the trapped Ugandans, requesting assistance to rescue them.

“Today, as a father, myself, having heard what these Ugandans have gone through, I cannot say I am delighted. Maybe I can say I am relieved that these Ugandans have come back home from the Royal Republic of Thailand. So please allow me on behalf of Haile to say welcome home, my brothers and sisters,” he said.

Additional reporting by Daily Monitor

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